Celeski ups the ante

Billy Celeski's return from a serious knee injury continues to gather momentum as the experienced midfielder fired home an 89th-minute winner in Melbourne Victory's 2-1 practice game victory over Dandenong Thunder on Tuesday night.

Billy Celeski's return from a serious knee injury continues to gather momentum as the experienced midfielder fired home an 89th-minute winner in Melbourne Victory's 2-1 practice game victory over Dandenong Thunder on Tuesday night.

Having missed most of the 2009-10 campaign after rupturing his ACL last September, Celeski returned to action against Boca Juniors last Friday night before demonstrating his class by firing home the winner after Tom Pondeljak drew Melbourne level in the second half.

Despite the chilly Melbourne winter's night, both sides produced an intense opening half that saw some good chances created without either team finding the back of net.

Melbourne stopper Michael Petkovic was forced into action as early as the third minute as the Victorian Premier League side looked for an early opening, but Victory soon assumed control through the middle.

Playing a quality passing game from defence to attack, the Victory created good chances through Robbie Kruse and Leigh Broxham in the 20th and 28th minutes respectively before Mate Dugandzic sent an effort wide of the right upright seven minutes before the break.

The Thunder upped the ante after the break however, Dandenong finding the back of the net as in-form English-born striker Jamie Reed, fresh from scoring twice in last Friday's victory over Bentleigh, beat Melbourne's defence with a cross-cum-shot.

Having made numerous substitutions at the break, the Victory needed some time to gel but were almost caught out again three minutes later when striker Veton Korcari forced another quality save from Petkovic with a headed attempt.

With Thunder winger Geoff Kellaway rampaging down the right on two occasions, Petkovic was forced into action again in the 52nd and 56th minutes as he coolly claimed crosses into the box.

But having weathered the storm, Melbourne soon took control of proceedings once again, gaining the ascendancy in possession and levelling the scores through a classy Pondeljak strike that ricocheted in off the left upright.

Thirteen minutes from time Nick Ward saw a good strike on goal saved by Thunder stopper Stuart Webster but Melbourne continued to press, earning victory in the dying moments as Celeski turned in the box and belted the ball home.

In a quality hit-out Broxham, Pondeljak and Grant Brebner stood out for Melbourne, while goalscorer Reed, Kellaway and striker Dennis Ukalli were the stand-outs for the Thunder.

"The way in which we were able to keep possession in midfield and build up from the back with good possession play, inter-passing through midfield and then to attack was quite pleasing in the first half,' said Melbourne assistant coach Aaron Healey.

"In the second half we made several substitutions, the intensity dropped a little bit but it was good for the youngsters that were on in the second half to get a result."

"We held in there, kept pushing to the end and got a good result," he said.