EDDIE Betts can breathe a sigh of relief.
After last week being Carlton's hero against Geelong, the returning goalkicker almost became its villain in the dying moments of the Blues' one-point win over Essendon.
BLUES IN A NAILBITER Full match coverage and stats
With the Bombers trailing by two points with less than a minute to spare in Saturday night's low-scoring encounter, Betts gave a 50-metre penalty away as Bomber Adam Saad went to kick in from a behind.
Saad was taken to the middle of the ground where he bombed forward to a pack of players, with teammate Jacob Townsend marking and kicking for goal – and the game – from 50 metres out with seconds to go.
The former Tiger's shot, however, fell just short and was punched over the line and the siren sounded moments later, handing the Blues their 7.10 (52) to 8.3 (51) win over their arch-rivals.
The Bombers, who were fresh after last week's postponed clash with Melbourne, appeared set to storm past the Blues in the second half after overturning an eight-point half-time deficit to lead by 12 points early in the final quarter.
However, Carlton coach David Teague's men held firm and struck back, claiming a gritty win that leaves them 2-2 after four rounds and ending Essendon's unbeaten start to the season.
Zach's Jack trouble?
Essendon midfielder Zach Merrett will come under match review scrutiny for a jab that left Carlton's Jack Silvagni out of the game. Merrett went to tackle Silvagni early in the first quarter but appeared to reach him with a fist to the ribs as the Carlton midfielder disposed of the ball. Silvagni spent the rest of the first term off the ground speaking with club medicos before he was ruled out of the contest in the second quarter and left the MCG to get scans at hospital on what David Teague said was possibly a bruised lung.
Slowing Saad stops the Bombers
It's not a stretch to say Adam Saad is Essendon's most important player, and the Blues certainly made an effort to ensure his dashing and damaging run off half-back was limited on Saturday night. Saad creates so much of the Bombers' drive with his exhilarating speed, but Carlton managed to drag him deep and restrict his offensive power. Saad was defensively very strong, with Betts having minimal impact, but it was no surprise that with Saad stopped from his blinding runs the Bombers, too, struggled to get going.
Carlton finds its firepower
Levi Casboult continued his brilliant 2020 with another three goals against the Bombers, again highlighting his vast improvement in the past 12 months in converting his opportunities. The strong-marking forward is also building a handy partnership with Mitch McGovern, who was a lively target in attack for the Blues with two goals. McGovern's creativity by foot was also evident as he set up his teammates for scoring opportunities as the pair made up for the absence of Harry McKay (ribs) who missed against the Bombers and Charlie Curnow (knee) who will be out all season. If they can all get fit at once it makes for an exciting front half for Teague.
ESSENDON 2.1 4.1 6.2 8.3 (51)
CARLTON 3.0 5.3 5.8 7.10 (52)
Essendon: Parish 2, Stringer 2, McDonald-Tipungwuti, McKernan, Smith, Townsend
Carlton: Casboult 3, McGovern 2, Betts, Martin
Essendon: McGrath, Merrett, Ridley, Smith, Francis
Carlton: Cuningham, Docherty, Casboult, Gibbons, Walsh
Essendon: Cutler (calf) replaced in selected side by Brayden Ham
Carlton: Silvagni (lungs)