It was with some irony that Melbourne Victory’s first home win of the season coincided with the first home game of the season that I was unable to attend due to a clash with a Grand Final that my futsal team* was playing.
Whilst it was a win that came at the end of probably the most tumultuous weeks in the short history of Melbourne Victory one must remember that this a win against a side sitting bottom of the ladder and with the worst defensive record in the league. It was also a game where the Victory when cruising at 2-0 up endeavoured to do their best to actually lose the game. First up, veteran Rodrigo Vargas decided he wanted an early shower with a two-footed challenge on the half-way line with a little over thirty minutes gone on the clock. To say Vargas should have known better is a massive understatement with the incident giving Gold Coast United the incentive to claw their way back into the game. This was followed by a rather soft penalty (it was a penalty just the Victory’s first two goals were penalties) on the stroke of half time which gave Gold Coast some much need momentum going into the second half.
Shortly after the break some lax defending saw Gold Coast equalise and you could almost hear the collective groan coming from AAMI Park in my lounge room as fans watched the team again throw away another two goal lead. Fortunately for the Victory they had come up against a team that quite clearly doesn’t know how to win and even with all of Miron Bleiberg’s so-called tactical genius couldn’t find that all important third goal against a Victory side that had gone to rabble following Vargas’ sending off. It seemed as if the home side suddenly realised that opponents didn’t have both the manpower or the will to actually win the game as both Carlos Hernandez and Archie Thompson rolled back the years (to be fair to Thompson, he’s been in outstanding form all season) and created a number of chances before the two combined for the winner in the 79th minute. Who would have thought that Hernandez could out jump three opponents.
Whilst one win doesn’t a title challenge make one pleasing aspect was the form of Billy Celeski, who looked more than the player of three seasons ago rather than the shadow of a player that existed since his return from a knee reconstruction. Whilst Ernie Merrick might have turned him into one of the best defensive midfielders of that title winning season, it seemed on a Sunday that Celeski relished a more attacking role, one that he was more accustomed to before arriving in our fair town. The result was a much more confident display than we have seen in at least one and a half seasons or maybe it just taken him that long to get over what was a quite a serious knee injury.
Next up is a clash with the Newcastle Jets, a team against which the Victory notoriously struggle against especially on their home turf. If Durakovic has indeed turned the season around then next week is surely a true test as to whether that is really the case.