Muscat: ‘I can’t wait to get home and watch that first half hour’
Melbourne Victory head coach Kevin Muscat was in a buoyant mood following his side’s 2-1 win over Sydney FC on Saturday night.
The annual Hyundai A-League Australia Day clash had extra significance this time aronud as Victory’s three points saw them leapfrog their rivals and set them hot on the heels of leaders Perth Glory.
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Muscat praised the way his side performed from the outset, their pressure eventually amounting to a goal thanks to an incredible Ola Toivonen free-kick.
“Sydney are a good team…but I can’t wait to get home and watch that first half hour…I was really pleased with it,” said Muscat.
“The way we played from the outset in the first half — to really pin them in and earn our first goal — was some outstanding football.
“Really, really exciting football, you must have enjoyed it.”
Enjoy it, we did, as Australia Day served up another memorable Big Blue.
Toivonen’s sublime strike got the ball rolling, before James Troisi finished off a sleek Victory move to double the hosts’ lead.
Milos Ninkovic pulled one back for the visitors when he squeezed his shot past Thomas Deng and Lawrence Thomas, but ultimately Victory prevailed in an arm-wrestle of an encounter.
Muscat credited his side’s ability to withstand Sydney’s attacks, particularly when the game became more physical as the Sky Blues played more directly.
“When you are losing — and we were in the same boat last week against Wellington — you start taking risks, you start taking chances, you’re sending men forward, and you become a little bit more direct, and we had to withstand that,” said Muscat.
“And we withstood it exceptionally well. “
Corica: We deserved to win
If ever football was a game of differing perspectives, Saturday night’s post-match assessments summed it up.
While Muscat believed his side was exceptional, Sydney FC head coach Steve Corica insisted his side deserved the three points.
The Sky Blues had more shots and shots on target than their counterparts, though Melbourne Victory maintained more possession and played more passes.
Stats aside, Corica praised his boys in a game that he feels could have been theirs.
“I think we deserved to win, actually, not a draw,” said Corica. “The first half was pretty tight, we defended well.
“A very good free-kick from Toivonen, world class to be honest. Other than that they didn’t really have any chances.
“Second half was totally different: We pressed up higher, we put them under pressure, we won the ball back up high, and I thought we were very good in the second half.
“If we could’ve gotten the second goal, we maybe could’ve won it.
“I’m very proud of the boys for their effort, we’ve played three games in seven games now, so (Melbourne) have had the extra rest, and I thought we finished stronger.
“Full credit to our boys…just disappointed at the result, because that (was a) crucial three points and I think we deserved more out of that game.”
Corica also reserved special praise for Sydney FC Academy product, Luke Ivanovic.
The 18-year-old came on in the 54th minute for his sixth Hyundai A-League appearance with the Sky Blues, making a notable impact on the game.
Ivanovic was unlucky not to grab his maiden league goal, of which Corica was well aware.
“We changed the formation a little bit (in the second half),” said Corica.
“Pushed Danny (De Silva), while he was on, as two strikers, and we brought our two wide players a little bit narrower.
“Then once we brought on the young boy Luke (Ivanovic) — he did a really good job, I thought he was excellent off the bench, very positive, had a shot hit the post and a very good header — he put them on the back foot.”
Sydney FC have an eight gap between their next game as they host Melbourne City on Sunday, February 3 at Jubilee Oval.
With City five points behind the Sky Blues, a loss for Warren Joyce’s men would seriously hamper their hopes of a top-three finish.