Three thoughts from Melbourne Victory's tough 2-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners last Friday night.
Victory below par, again...
Even post-match Kevin Muscat said it himself: for the majority of the game, the Victory were underpar with team's performance below the club's expectations. He was right on the nose, the Victory were far too casual in their approach, and only when it found itself down a goal, did it decide to wake up. Even a half-time teamtalk did not seem to galvanise the Victory, who needed Gui Finkler's magic to bail them out (more on that below).
It has been two weeks running where the Victory were below their usual standard, and while winning is all that matters now, poor performances can, and will be caught out. Credit must be given to the Mariners, who played an effective game in nulifying the home team's attacking approach. For a team though, looking to win the Premiership, and grab a home semi-final, Muscat has to make sure that the boys lift their games for the final run-in.
...So Fink saves the day.
Back to Finkler saving the day for the Victory. The Brazilian delivered when the Big V needed it most with two stunning goals (his second was just, worldly: the pinpoint lofted up ball with the right amount of power, from such a tight angle). Moments like this is what makes Finkler one of the most influential players in the league. He might not dominant games like FBK, or Thomas Broich, but he does have that magic to turn games on their head. And as the final run-in gets even tighter, we are going to need it more often.
Premiership in Victory's hands.
All the talk might be of Wellington and its grasp on the Premiership title. But with a game in hand, the Victory might have a bigger claim on it. Win it and it goes outright first. Of course, that game in hand is still more than a fortnight away and the Victory still have to play the Phoenix (away) and the Jets (home) before that double clash against the Roar. Yet, you cannot help feel that with the Victory playing against two teams out of the finals contention (the Jets and Mariners), as well as one of the cusp of calling it quits amid a huge congestion of fixtures (the Roar), it has quite a easy run compared to the rest of its opponents. It is just a matter of actually playing properly and winning.