ACL tough, but Muscat welcomes the challenge
Kevin Muscat says the AFC Champions League makes life harder for Melbourne Victory but is an exciting challenge to have after 3-1 win over the Mariners.
Kevin Muscat says the AFC Champions League makes life harder for Melbourne Victory but is an exciting challenge to have so soon after seeing off the Central Coast Mariners 3-1 on Friday night.
Victory toiled without several first-team regulars to register a crucial win at AAMI Park over one of their direct rivals for an A-League finals berth.
They now have just a handful of days to prepare for the visit of K-League heavyweights Jeonbuk Motors to Etihad Stadium on Wednesday and with no room for error after going down 4-2 away to Guangzhou Evergrande in their first group-stage game two weeks ago.
'They're a good team,' he said. 'It's exciting, playing in it (the AFC Champions League). It makes life so much harder. That's just a fact. It makes life so much harder playing these games, because you're playing against very good opposition. More times than most you're having to travel. But it's exciting. I think we should embrace it.
'The first 45 minutes, the first half against Guangzhou was the best football I've seen this team, Melbourne Victory, play for a long, long time, if not the best football we've played.
'Putting yourself up against different opposition, you learn different lessons. Albeit it's difficult on the body and mind, the players are getting great experience from that and great lessons. I'm looking forward to it.'
Muscat sought to shift the focus away from Lawrence Thomas after the goalkeeper, promoted in place of the error-prone Nathan Coe last weekend, made a costly mistake of his own, failing to clear a routine free-kick and allowing Zach Anderson to equalise for the Mariners.
'People'll point to Lawrence for making a mistake for the goal, but from my perspective he's made a decision to come for a cross. So I'm not going to crucify him for that,' he said.
'His decision to come for the cross was correct. Then he's makes a skill-based error. Other players made skill-based errors tonight as well. Having said that, Zach Anderson ... he was in five yards of space. I certainly am not going to look at one individual.'
According to the Victory coach, Mark Milligan and Tom Rogic returned from mid-week Australia duty with no ill-effects, while Adama Traore will be monitored ahead of the Jeonbuk game after he was a late withdrawal from Friday's clash due to a knee issue.