Kevin Muscat described feeling a mixture of pride and pain after his side's last-gasp loss to the Brisbane Roar on Saturday night.
The Melbourne Victory manager said he was very satisfied with the way his chargers kept Brisbane at bay for almost the entire match, but gutted that they lost at the death 1-0 courtesy of an injury-time cracker from Luke Brattan.
They may have a shakier grip on second place after the loss, but Muscat took confidence from the performance of his side against the competition's stand-out team, pointing out the Victory's busy recent schedule.
"Mixed amongst the severe disappointment, I'm thoroughly proud of the boys," Muscat said after the game.
"And I don't want to bring up, it's the fifth game in 16 days, but that's a fact.
"It's been a hard slog.
"I think we've embraced playing in the Champions League and our league form has been good, and it's nice now to try and freshen the boys up."
The match was high in quality and tightly contested throughout. While the Roar enjoyed 61 per cent of the possession and created the clearer chances (21 shots to the Victory's seven), the Melbourne side always looked composed and capable of hanging on or snatching the win.
"It was a good performance tonight, gut wrenching, 90 seconds away from taking a point," Muscat said.
"Albeit as well, our structure was spot on, and it really frustrated them.
"But going the other way I thought we showed a cutting edge and a real threat going forward, so having said that, I'm really pleased with the group."
While paying credit to the Premier's Plate winners, Muscat said the Victory had shown positive signs ahead of any potential match up between the sides in the finals series, hinting that decisions had gone against his men at Suncorp Stadium.
"Congratulations to Brisbane, by the way, they're deserved champions.
"Throughout the journey of the competition they've been very, very good.
"But tonight, it's a hard place to come, and I don't think we got any decision that was 50-50
"So from that aspect, you'd like to think you'd get your fair share, and I was disappointed with a number of decisions tonight."comments