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Demons produce stunning comeback to deny Bombers

Highlights: Essendon v Melbourne The Bombers and Demons clash in round 13
Bernie Vince of the Demons celebrates a goal during the 2014 AFL Round 13 match between the Essendon Bombers and the Melbourne Demons at the MCG, Melbourne on June 15, 2014. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Bernie Vince celebrates a goal in Melbourne's stunning comeback win over Essendon
MELBOURNE has overrun Essendon to notch a stunning upset, holding on in the tense final moments to win by one point in one of the season's most memorable games at the MCG.  
 
Substitute Christian Salem kicked the winning goal with 19 seconds remaining and the Demons held on in their defensive 50m to win 12.6 (78) to 10.17 (77).
 
Bombers midfielder David Zaharakis threatened to win the match off his own boot in the final minutes, kicking back-to-back running goals from 50m to turn an eight-point deficit into a four-point lead for the Dons, who had led for three-and-a-half quarters. 


Salem, however, playing just his seventh game, capped off a brilliant cameo performance when Daniel Cross held his nerve streaming inside 50 and found the 18-year-old 25m from goal.  
 
Melbourne had earlier fallen 33 points behind in the third quarter but kicked nine of the last 12 goals to break the Bombers' hearts at the end of another difficult week for the club. 
 
Dean Kent was brilliant for Demons, kicking two second-half goals. He gave his team the lead halfway through the final term when he took possession on the wing and went on a three-bounce run to kick a team-lifting goal.    

Co-captain Nathan Jones was also outstanding, finishing with 27 possessions and eight clearances, while defender Lynden Dunn held the defence together with 29 possessions, 11 marks and 16 rebound 50s.  

"They should have put us away, we certainly dodged a bullet," Melbourne coach Paul Roos said post-match.
 
"At half-time I think we only had 11 inside 50s and we were playing pretty poorly.
 
"Full credit to our guys, it could have easily been a 70-80-point loss.
 
"They were pretty stiff but we're pretty excited about winning."
 
In the new landscape that saw Essendon players handed show-cause notices by ASADA on Thursday, the show went on at the MCG and the club appeared on track for a spirit-lifting win in the third quarter.  

They lacked a tall forward presence in the second half, however, with Jake Carlisle playing in defence alongside Michael Hurley and Joe Daniher held to one goal.  

Coach Mark Thompson, who kept his players behind closed doors for 45 minutes post-match, said the Bombers had lacked discipline and their performance had nothing to do with the off-field events of this week.   

Asked what aspects of the game he was unhappy with, the coach said, "kicking, structures, stoppages, shots at goal, defensive skills, handballing – everything".

"I just basically said, 'Stop doing this – if you're serious about what you do just do it properly'," he said.  

"[They] know what they're doing. They know. You can do all the talk, all the reviews, we can treat them, train them, everything. 

"In the end if they let themselves continue to do it then they'll play the same way and we'll do it for a long time. 

"So something's got to change."
  
In the absence of late withdrawal Dustin Fletcher (back) and captain Jobe Watson, who has inspired the Dons when they've had their backs to the wall previously, Brendon Goddard skippered the team. 
 
He delivered a lengthy message pre-game and then led by example with a strong midfield performance, finishing with 31 possessions and 10 marks.  
 
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The Bombers enjoyed a lopsided inside 50 count in the first half (38-11) against an opposition intent on retaining possession and minimising risk.
 
Once the Demons flicked their attacking switch after half-time, however, Mark Thompson's men found themselves in a genuine contest and missed an opportunity to return to the top eight.

Paul Roos congratulates match-winner Christian Salem in the rooms after the match. Picture: AFL Media



ESSENDON                 2.4    5.12    8.12  10.17 (77)
MELBOURNE              0.3    3.3      7.6     12.6 (78)
 
GOALS
Essendon:
Zaharakis 4, Ambrose, Ryder, Z. Merrett, Chapman, Goddard, Daniher
Melbourne: Pedersen 2, Frawley 2, Kent 2, Watts 2, Jones, Grimes, Vince, Salem
 
BEST
Essendon
: Zaharakis, Goddard, Dempsey, Carlisle, Hibberd, Ambrose
Melbourne: Dunn, Jones, Pedersen, Viney, Frawley, Tyson, Cross, Kent
 
INJURIES
Essendon:
Nil
Melbourne: Nil
 
SUBSTITUTES
Essendon:
Jake Melksham substituted out at three-quarter time for Elliott Kavanagh
Melbourne: Aidan Riley substituted out in the third quarter for Christian Salem
 
Reports: Nil
 
Umpires: Hosking, Schmitt, Pannell
 
Official crowd: 44,622 at the MCG
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs