Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce has praised the fighting spirit of his players after a last-gasp 4-3 win over Western Sydney Wanderers that he feels could prove season-defining.
Dutch defender Bart Schenkeveld was the hero when he secured all three points with a towering header from a corner in the fourth minute of injury time at AAMI Park on Tuesday night.
City led 2-1 at half-time but goals to Tass Mourdoukoutas and Jaushua Sotirio after the restart gave the visitors a surprise 3-2 lead.
Then Markus Babbel's side was reduced to 10 men in the 66th minute when Keanu Baccus was given his marching orders after being shown a second yellow card for an ill-advised tackle.
City peppered the visitors' goal from that point with Ritchie de Laet levelling the sides with a superb low shot in the 84th minute.
Then Schenkeveld picked the best possible time to score his first goal for the club.
"I don't think we stole it ... we dominated the game but we gave horrendous goals away tonight," Joyce said.
"I think if you look at the game as a whole we deserved to win it and win it comfortably.
"The fact that it goes so late just shows what a tremendous spirit they've got as a group ... not to give up and pull together in the face of adversity.
"They've shone through again."
Just days after they failed to generate a single shot on target in a lifeless 0-0 draw against Perth Glory, City were on the board just 31 seconds after the opening whistle.
De Laet latched onto a poor back pass then left advancing keeper Nicholas Suman stranded before side-footing home.
The goal sparked the Wanderers who deserved their equaliser when Roly Bonevacia converted from the penalty spot after Curtis Good sent Sotirio sprawling.
But Luke Brattan put City back in front with a stunning strike from outside the box in the 38th minute, the midfielder's thunderbolt finding the top left corner.
Joyce conceded it would have been a much different story if his fourth-placed side had been unable to pull back a 3-2 deficit against a struggling Wanderers team that has managed just two wins this season.
"You're questions would be different, my answers would be trying to create a positive out of something where I'd be absolutely spewing," Joyce told reporters.
"You've got to keep in track with the teams higher up ... we knew it was an important three points."
Australian Associated Press