Something navy, this way comes — Victory hint at revival under Popovic

Unfortunately for A-League Men (ALM) fans that have been revelling in their two years of misery, the signs, it appears, are there that normal service may soon be resuming at Melbourne Victory. 

In defeating Brisbane Roar 3-0, Melbourne’s original ALM side secured wins from their first two regular seasons games for the first time since the 2006-07 season on Sunday afternoon; an unfortunate own-goal from Kai Trewin combining with strikes from Nick D’Agostino and Ben Folami to make it three wins from three in the new Tony Popovic-era. 

Eight days on from producing a workmanlike 1-0 win over Western United and four days on from running out the kids in an FFA Cup triumph over Perth Glory, Victory put forth a performance that Brisbane simply had no answers for across the length of the 90 minutes — stifling their foes in defence and stringing together a series of attacks indicative of a confident and well-prepared outfit that continued to grow as the game progressed. 

“[The improvement in performance is down to] more time with these players being together in training and playing games,” Popovic said post-game.

“You could see it improved. We obviously want it to get better and we’ll keep working hard on trying to get it better each week and, hopefully, there are more signs of improvement next week when we play Perth.”

With six points from a possible six, Victory will end round two top of ALM regardless of the result in the Western Sydney Wanderers meeting with Newcastle Jets later on Sunday evening and, in a mark that was almost inevitably going to be reached by a Popovic-coach side, have kept a clean sheet in back-to-back games for the first time since December 2018. 

“I think the players will take draw a lot of confidence from [the clean sheets],” said the Victory coach. “I thought as a team we defended very well, we pressed very well. They’re a mobile team. They played a back three and we were very aggressive in our press which, at times left us one-on-one at the back but we felt that gave us more opportunities to create and control the game. So credit to the players.”

Observers with long memories will, of course, remember that the last time Victory started a season with two wins on the bounce was when they featured the likes of Fred, Kevin Muscat, Grant Brebner, and Archie Thompson running around. That side, in fact, would go on to win their first seven games of the campaign, as well as a Premiership and Championship double. 

And while projecting similar results from this side so early on in the season, and with so much of the league still an unknown, would be hyperbolic folly, that genuine excitement is building amongst the club’s faithful about what can be achieved under the club’s new regime is impossible to deny. 

It would be hard not to be, given that the past two years realisation of years of institutional complacency led to the club plumbing the depths of mediocrity so intently it eventually broke through to outright abjectness: Victory recording a second-bottom finish in 20219-20 and a first-ever wooden-spoon in 2020-21.

Enjoying Joey’s coverage of Australian sport? Your support helps keep it possible.
You’re seeing this advert because this is an unpaid, self-published piece.

You can support his ongoing work by buying him a coffee:

The first and key appointment in that almost complete rebuild of the club’s men’s football department after these worst two years in club history, there was significant anticipation about what the former Western Sydney and Perth Glory coach would be able to bring to the club in his first year in charge — his record of near-instant success on a domestic level suggesting if the turnaround was to arrive, it would do so quickly.

“I don’t want to put a limit on [where Victory can end up],” said Popovic. “We’ll keep pushing to improve every day and there’s no limit. Let’s see how far it takes us.

“At the moment it’s good, we can see that we improved from last week to this week. We’ll work hard to do the same in the FFA Cup [a Wednesday meeting with NPL SA side Adelaide City] and against Perth at home.

“We’ll try to keep growing. Nobody gives you the points, it’s not easy, and we’ll work very hard to try and continue on the run of improvement. If that happens, then we feel we have a chance to win another game next week.”

It cannot pass without mention, however, that Victory’s on-field performance wasn’t the only notable aspect of Sunday afternoon. Indeed, for all the talk by the APL about the new and innovative strategies that they would implement to grow the leagues, AAMI Park provided a reminder that one of the most important things the leagues need to do isn’t new at all — but instead a return to its glories of the past. 

Though the 13,026 fans in attendance was a disappointing figure simply given the hights Victory has reached in the past, the fans that were in attendance produced the kind of ambience that not only makes attending football matches a joy to attend but also turns casual observers of the sport into fans. 

It was a reminder that for all the talk of digital assets, leveraging market shares, or targeting specific demographics — or whatever other buzz words Jack Donaghy is pushing that week — nothing compares to the real thing.

Enjoying Joey’s coverage of Australian sport? Your support helps keep it possible.
You’re seeing this advert because this is an unpaid, self-published piece.

You can support his ongoing work by buying him a coffee:

Header Image Credit: Melbourne Victory

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s