Advantage Tando in keeper fight
On the same day Melbourne Victory appear to have lost out on the chase for one of Australia's best young keepers, Dean Bouzanis, the stopper they already have on their books showed he is not ready to let anyone else take the gloves.
On the same day Melbourne Victory appear to have lost out on the chase for one of Australia's best young keepers, Dean Bouzanis, the stopper they already have on their books showed he is not ready to let anyone else take the gloves for the start of the Hyundai A-League season in 10 weeks' time.
Bouzanis prematurely tweeted he had reached an agreement with Victory last week, a deal which was news to the club, who were quick to point out that negotiations were still ongoing.
It now appears Bouzanis, the former Liverpool trainee, is set to pursue his career back in Europe, with negotiations with Victory at a standstill.
"We are looking for a keeper, but we haven't signed anyone. We have not signed Dean Bouzanis," Mehmet Durakovic, the new Melbourne coach, said on Wednesday after the 1-0 loss to Celtic.
None of the drama of the last week surrounding Bouzanis was of particular concern to the Victory's incumbent keeper Tando Velaphi.
Conjecture over whether the 24-year-old is the right man between the posts for the club in the upcoming A-League season may be consuming the time of fans in the forums, but out on the pitch Velaphi was working hard in pre-season training, knowing an encounter with Scottish giants Celtic loomed.
He knew that his reputation for spectacularly good or bad performances had seem him tagged 'Flappy Velaphi' by some fans. He wanted only to show his best against Celtic at AAMI Park.
And that he did, with a superb performance in the pre-season feature friendly. He pulled off a succession of brilliant saves and did everything possible to keep his team level before a deflection from a Scott Brown shot finally broke his resolve in the 78th minute.
"He was in a different class tonight, absolutely sensational," Durakovic said of his keeper. "He's been different class since day one in the ACL. I cannot praise him more than enough, his saves tonight were outstanding."
Opposition coach Neil Lennon, who is lacking depth in his goalkeeping ranks, would have no doubt noted the outstanding efforts of Velaphi, who denied Paddy McCourt and Georgios Samaras on several occasions.
Velaphi is already crediting the influence of Steve Mautone, Victory's goalkeeping coach, for helping him make an impressive start to his tenure at the club as he bids to keep the No.1 spot from whomever Victory signs as their other stopper.
"We've only been back for a week, but I've been working hard with Mauts. Whoever comes in, it's up to them to take the spot. I'll be working hard the next 10 weeks to try and cement that position," he said.
"There's always some areas I can work on. It's good to be up against top opposition and gauge where you are at. I'll look at the video with Mauts and the rest of the coaching staff and assess some things I can tweak to my game and go from there."
While Velaphi is benefitting from the one-on-one time with Mautone, who has helped oversee the development of previous Victory keepers such as Michael Theoklitos, Eugene Galekovic and Mitch Langerak, he believes his best improvement will come with competition from another stopper.
It now looks unlikely to be Bouzanis, but whoever Victory signs as their other keeper, Velaphi believes the battle for the gloves will only help him improve.
"When you look at the whole squad there's competition for all different spots, in the goalkeeping ranks it can only better you as a player," he said.
"You have to make sure you perform each week and prepare each week, it's great having that competition. You always want to play, but at the end of the day only one can play, hopefully I can do that."