Breakneck speed: Victory's deadly trio sparking breathtaking displays
When the dust finally settles on Friday night’s crazy Hyundai A-League encounter, the competition may yet glance at Melbourne Victory and whimper.
Victory’s 4-2 win over Brisbane Roar had a little bit of everything. Six goals, two penalties, a red card, an own goal and one big statement of intent from the reigning Champions – all inside a breathless 45 minutes.
Kevin Muscat’s side have now won six matches in a row, equalling the club’s second-best all-time run of form.
Honda and Toivonen inspire, Barbarouses on fire
Melbourne are playing football at breakneck speed, and even amidst the chaos of Friday’s opening half, Keisuke Honda conducted it all from the eye of the storm.
Once again, the Japanese superstar was on the scoresheet, joined again by Swedish frontman Ola Toivonen.
Toivonen is scoring at a prolific rate of knots now. Prior to kick off, the big Swede had scored with eight of his 10 shots on target.
He has now registered three goals and two assists in just 344 minutes on the pitch.
But despite inspiring Victory again with their attacking flair, it was perhaps in the matches opening moments that Honda and Toivonen’s importance was laid bare – when the duo combined to clear a goal-bound Stefan Mauk effort off the line and subsequently clear.
That moment demonstrates that Victory’s stars are not only strutting their stuff but are rolling their sleeves up in the manner Muscat demands. Currently, they are emblematic of both Victory’s Formula One football and dogged resilience.
And what about Kosta Barbarouses? The Kiwi has been in vintage form for the reigning Champions, and his confidence in front of goal was underlined by his clinical first half brace.
Barbarouses opened and closed the scoring in Brisbane, with whom he won the Hyundai A-League double with back in 2010/11.
Overall, he’s been involved in five goals already in December, four goals and one assist outranking any other player in the competition.
Lopez silenced as Brisbane splutter
John Aloisi remarked that it was an ideal time for his out of form Roar side to take on the Hyundai A-League’s pacesetters in the pre-match build up.
But the former Caltex Socceroo could hardly have envisaged worse circumstances for his team to kick start their faltering campaign.
The Roar have not won a game this season in which they’ve conceded first, and when Eric Bautheac was handed his marching orders for losing his cool early on, the writing appeared on the wall.
If there’s any team in the competition ill-suited to playing with 10-men, it would likely be Aloisi’s side, whose emphasis on possession, patient build up and long sequences of combination play was slashed by Victory’s white-hot intensity.
Alex Lopez was the most obvious victim. The impressive Spaniard averaged 80 touches per 90 minutes and was the competition’s fourth highest passer before kick-off.
Against Victory, he had just 16 passes and 24 touches to his name before his hour-mark withdrawal for Henrique.
Admittedly, Bautheac’s dismissal and the crazy nature of the opening half created near-impossible conditions for Lopez and Roar to thrive.
Yet, as Victory’s effective shackling of Roar’s playmaker showed, Brisbane may have to allow some stylistic tweaks to take place if they are to ignite their campaign and ultimately challenge with their Melbourne rivals at the business end.
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