Friday, October 10, 2014

Must Be The Victory Coming...

It was a fitting way to open the A-League’s 10th season. The biggest club in the land, Melbourne Victory, trouncing the new pretenders the Western Sydney Wanderers in front of 30,083 boisterous fans at Etihad Stadium.

Nine seasons ago, the match between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory was the talking point of round one as a new state-based rivalry was born. But as the Wanderers fans filed into the stadium to fill their allocation, there was a feeling that this fixture might become the biggest in the competition. The colour and the noise that these two clubs generate reverberates around the country.

The first goal came inside 10 minutes, the second within 20 and the third before the half-hour mark. Melbourne Victory, who haven’t won an opening game since 2006, could hardly have hoped for a better start.

With Matthew Spiranovic and Nikolai Topor-Stanley out of action for Wanderers, there was always going to be questions over the visitors’ threadbare back-line, and it was a horror start for the stand-in centre-half pairing of Antony Golec and Brendan Hammill. If the Wanderers are the masters at parking the bus, this was more reminiscent of Otto at the steering wheel after a few too many brekky bongs.

But while the Wanderers were awful, the Victory were clinical in front of goal with a new look front three featuring Kosta Barbarouses, Archie Thompson and marquee man Besart Berisha. On this evidence alone, Kevin Muscat looks to be onto a winner with his new formation.

Gui Finkler and Barbarouses combined well down the right, and the Wanderers stand-in left back Shannon Cole was under enormous pressure from the very start. Indeed the first goal came after just eight minutes after some tidy build up play between Finkler and Barberouses. New Victory signing Matthieu Delpierre found himself free just six yards out, and there was little Ante Covic could do in the Wanderers goal.

On 19 minutes, Golec handled the ball in the box, and up stepped Berisha. In his first A-League game for the Victory, he was never going to disappoint. A quick look up to pick his spot, a no nonsense run up and Berisha was soon saluting the fans.

Confidence was sky-high for the home side, and even the humble Leigh Broxham wanted to get in on the action. After a couple of attempts from range, Broxham popped up for the Victory’s third goal on 28 minutes. Again it was Barbarouses who bamboozled Cole down the right channel in the build up, and after his shot was blocked, Broxham blazed the ball through the crowded defence into the back of the net.

Mark Bridge pulled one back for the visitors before half-time, but it meant little in the context of the match. The Wanderers, who have built their game around defensive cohesion, looked dazed and confused.

Perhaps this was best summed up by Victory’s fourth and final goal. Under no pressure at all, Golec gave away possession cheaply, and with the defence woefully out of position, Berisha fed Thompson who made no mistake in front of goal.

The Wanderers might put this uncharacteristic performance down to missing players and the distraction of their Asian Champions League commitments, but regardless, the rest of the competition are on notice. This Victory side looks balanced, creative and menacing.