It took a while, but Melbourne Victory put away Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Park on Friday night via goals from Jimmy Jeggo, Kosta Barbarouses and James Troisi. For Victory, it was not so much as papering over the cracks as many still know where the cracks are - they just need much more time to be filled.
Kevin Muscat’s side can be happy with the result more than anything. Three points was the only option considering the make-up of the A-League table and fixtures ahead. It was slow going early on as Victory lacked urgency and looked lethargic, possibly as a result of a lighter week on the training track. It didn’t look their night even pre-match when Adama Traore was a late withdrawal with a knee injury sustained early in the week at training. As a result, Jason Geria came in to the team, while Leigh Broxham started at centre-back.
Mariners looked the much better of the two to open the match as they had the majority of possession and played through Victory with ease but did not produce the end product. So as a result, all in the stands and who tuned in saw a stalemate. The Mariners were made to pay for not scoring, with outstanding work close in from Gui Finkler, who was sterling throughout, as he held up and laid off the ball to lead to Jeggo’s neat finish into the far bottom corner.
As a result, Victory took an undeserved lead to the break.
Over the second half, Melbourne then looked sharper and more proactive going forward as Jeggo and midfield partner Rashid Mahazi had more of a say on proceedings, but despite that, the Mariners drew first blood.
Lawrence Thomas had another nightmare moment when he flapped helplessly at a free-kick from Kim Seung-Yong, allowing Zac Anderson to shoot the ball home. Many in the stands and on social media were quick to call for his head, unsurprisingly so. Goalkeepers have a tough time of it for most part, all get put under a spotlight and when a mistake inevitably happens, fail to move on from it and are relegated to the bench. Thomas is 22years old, meaning he has improvement in him. Whether he will get the opportunity to do so remains to be seen.
Despite receiving the Bronx cheers, it turned out Thomas’s blunder had no bearing on the result, as Anderson then proceeded to turn from hero to villain in the space of 15 minutes. The referee called correctly for a handball inside the penalty area, Troisi made no mistake as his spot-kick clanged off the crossbar and into the net.
The play that led to the penalty was crucial. Six Victory players pressed into the Mariners’ half, forcing Anderson to make a pass that went directly to Jeggo, who played the ball to Thompson on the left. Thompson’s rising cross then met Anderson’s arm and won Victory the game. Barbarouses then ended the match on the right note for his team, making his return from All Whites duty a successful one.
There were two things to take from this clash. For Central Coast, Phil Moss may need to consider changing the style that bought the Mariners success in the past. They look a great deal slower than they were but still have the pluck that has defined them, but that does not appear to be enough anymore.
Melbourne Victory is in a holding pattern until the pre-season comes and new transfer window opens. At present, there is simply not enough time to fill the gaps in the squad, namely in the defence. The Asian Champions League does not help that, either, but is undoubtedly important. Whilst the future is promising, the now will leave Victory just short of challenging the top two.