NPL wrap: Victory opens season with Ranges stalemate

Melbourne Victory has played out a 0-0 stalemate with Whittlesea Ranges in Round 1 of the PlayStation 4 NPL2 West season at Epping Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Hyundai A-League players Stefan Nigro and George Howard featured in Victory's line-up. Nigro played a holding midfield role, while Howard was the target man in attack.

Victory went close to opening the scoring in the 21st minute when James Xydias found the time and space to shoot from 20 yards, his strike flashing past the left upright.

Xydias' strike was a rare highlight from a cagey first half, with the only other chance a curling Nigro shot from the edge of the area that flew over the crossbar.

Whittlesea's best chances of the first half came late – Josh Frame hit a volley that flew just wide in the 41st minute, before Chris Talajic forced a save from Stephen Hatzikourtis with a well-struck shot soon after.

Victory started the second half with more of the ball and managed to create a handful of chances, but Nigro and Howard were unable to capitalise on their opportunities.

Whittlesea went close to taking the lead in the 77th minute when Hatzikourtis fumbled a stinging shot from Matthew Conversano but recovered in time to stop the ball from going over the line.

At the other end, Pierce Waring had Victory's best chance of the match in the 81st minute. After opening up space with a great turn, Waring's powerful strike cannoned into the crossbar.

An 88th minute free-kick just outside the area presented Victory with an opportunity to take the three points and while Howard's strike was on target, Ranges goalkeeper Phillip Petrovski was up to the task.

It proved to be Victory's final chance in what was otherwise a tense encounter that saw both sides unsuccessfully battle for control in the La Ionica Community Cup.

Earlier in the day, Victory's under-20s began their season in style, defeating Whittlesea Ranges 2-0.

PlayStation 4 NPL2 West 2017 Round 1

Whittlesea Ranges 0
Melbourne Victory 0