Humilation turns to anger as Victory fall yet again

Call it a reaction, call it pride, or shame, or even call it a dead cat bounce, but Melbourne Victory was better than they were last week. But then again, given that last week was a 6-0 hammering that brought the side crashing to its lowest ever ebb, the bar for improvement was arguably as low as it possibly could have been set. 

And they still ended up falling a 3-1 defeat to Adelaide United, a second consecutive loss to a bitter rival and remain four points adrift at the bottom of the A-League table. 

A brace from Stefan Mauk in the 35th and 77th minutes and a 61-st minute strike from Australian football’s newest cult hero in Kusini Yengi propelled Adelaide past their Original Rivalry foes on Saturday evening, despite the hosts taking the lead at Marvel Stadium through a Jake Brimmer free-kick in the 28th minute.

Victory started the game in a promising manner, displaying intensity and purpose in the direct, counter-attacking approach they adopted and frequently getting Socceroos’ attacker Robbie Kruse into dangerous areas of time and space. The effort, however, was unable to be sustained and the Reds ultimately ended up cruising to the three points as Victory’s moves in transition were plugged and their defensive frailties re-emerged in the second stanza.

“I sat here last week humiliated,” said Victory coach Grant Brebner. “Tonight I sit here really, really, angry that we’ve gifted goals to the opposition. 

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“We had some good players, performance-wise, tonight. But I’ve always come in here and protected and stood by players, but when you defend like that you’re in trouble.”

Though the depths that were mined in their hammering by Melbourne City in their previous fixture were avoided, the result adds yet more pressure to Victory to, somehow, either turn around the mess they find themselves in or at least communicate to their fans how they plan figure out how to do so. 

Brebner’s side has now concluded a five-game homestand that the Scot had declared to be “season-defining” before it began with four defeats and just a single win. The few Victory fans that braved the rain to attend on the evening ended the run of games as they started it: booing their side in defeat and chanting that they “lose every week”. 

Anchored to the bottom of the league, Victory must now prepare to travel to take on bitter rivals Sydney FC next week who, as winners of two straight, will enjoy nothing more than adding to the misery that is their bitter, navy blue rivals season.

“There is nobody in this building that isn’t trying to give our members and fans what they want,” said Brebner. “We will continually work hard. We will come in tomorrow morning, we will hit the training track again and we will do everything in our power to turn our fortunes around. 

“It’s a frustrating time for our members and fans, it’s a frustrating time for everybody. But I sat here last week really, really disappointed with that result and I felt for our members but as I sit here now, I join them in their frustration and I’m going to make sure that, this week, we make sure that we try and get back on the track to winning football games. 

“There is an element of one or two players probably needing to go home tonight and look at themselves in the mirror. But we all do. We all have to go home and reflect and work out what we can do better. Those conversations and those players will remain inside the changing room. 

“But make no mistake, I might sit here at times and come across as a nice guy but that’s slowly wearing off now. There will be players put on notice to perform because they are playing for contracts.”

As it has been for much of their tortuous run of form, the fallout from the game will largely focus on Victory’s maladies, but Adelaide has now won four straight games following their 4-0 defeat to Macarthur FC on February 12. 

In Yengi, the club may also have found the next hitherto little-known player set to take the A-League by storm; the young attackers rambunctious decision to leap the advertising boards, puff out his chest and celebrate his goal directly in front of the Victory fans rapidly earning him a legion of fans across social media. 

“The boys have shown in the last three or four weeks that when they get a bit of confidence, it’s amazing what it does to a younger squad,” Veart said post-game. 

“Tonight, I thought it was going to be a difficult game. I thought we started well and the response to the goal from the playing group was excellent.

“Kusini was excellent tonight. He’s learning his craft and we’ve got to keep his feet grounded. You’ve seen tonight how dangerous he can be and he has a lot of confidence in himself. He’s got a long way to go but tonight he did exactly what we wanted him to do coming on. 

“Winning makes you better. It’s as simple as that. We’ve now won four on the trot and we were inconsistent before that but now, once you start winning games, you breed that confidence. We showed tonight that, even though we went behind, the boys kept going and in the second half we fixed the counter-attack that Victory kept on getting in the first half. 

“We fixed that at half time and that shut down their avenue to attack us, we got on top and we got the result.”

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Not wavering in the ethos that they entered the season with, Veart’s side is producing results while simultaneously bringing through talented young player after talented young player: both sourced from the club’s academy and those from other teams that have headed to South Australia seeking an opportunity. 

Former Victory, City and Western United prospect Josh Cavallo became the latest example of the latter as he started his first game for Adelaide in the win – the 21-year-old deployed next to 19-year-old Louis D’Arrigo at the heart of the Reds’ midfield. 

“Josh is a good kid,” the Adelaide boss said. “I know he’s bounced around the Victorian A-League clubs and I’m very surprised nobody has really given him a shot – being a VIctorian kid as well. And he showed tonight that he is a very good player that works extremely hard and takes up excellent positions on the pitch.  

“If you look back, I was involved in the [youth South Australia] environment for nearly ten years. We’ve brought the young players through under the same philosophy that we had for a long period of time. 

“The big thing is about letting the kids trust themselves and having the belief to go out and play.”

Melbourne Victory: 1. Matt Acton, 2. Storm Roux, 15. Aaron Anderson, 6. Leigh Broxham, 3. Adama Traore, 8. Jacob Butterfield, 22. Jake Brimmer, 10. Robbie Kruse, 11. Ben Folami, 7. Callum McManaman, 9. Rudy Gestede
Subs: 20. Max Crocombe, 13. Birkan Kirdar, 14. Jay Barnett, 16. Brandon Lauton, 33. Dalibor Markovic, 35. Zayden Bello, 15. Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio
Coach: Grant Brebner 

Adelaide United: 46. Joe Gauci, 4. Ryan Strain, 23. Jordan Elsey, 22. Michael Jakobsen, 21. Javi Lopez, 27. Josh Cavallo, 6. Louis D’Arrigo, 8. Stefan Mauk, 26. Ben Halloran, 35. Al Hassan Toure, 11. Craig Goodwin
Subs: 33. Dakota Ochsenham, 3. George Timotheou, 18. Joe Caletti, 24. Pacifique Niyongabire, 29. Kusini Yengi
Coach: Carl Veart

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