Talking Points: Can Melbourne Victory kick on from Christmas Derby delight?
Melbourne Victory are back on the winners list after an unexpected Christmas Derby win, but what does it mean for the outlook of their season?
The Victory came into their Round 11 clash with Melbourne City having won just one of their previous seven games but they ultimately proved too strong for their second-placed opponents, earning a much-needed 2-1 win thanks to an Ola Toivonen double at AAMI Park on Saturday afternoon.
Their performance made the FOX Sports panel sit forward and take note.
“It was a game where they really needed to step up,” said FOX Sports analyst Alex Brosque.
“Their fans have been asking for a performance like that, and a win like that.
“To go against a City team who have, quite recently, been very consistent, they needed to come up big and they did.
“[Toivonen] was great. Big games like this, you need big players to stand up – that’s what he did.”
But Brosque’s colleague Mark Bosnich went one step further, saying the much-needed result sets the bar for what’s to come from Victory this season.
“What a difference in the mood in that dressing room there will be this week,” Bosnich said on FOX Sports post-match.
“Those fans deserve that.
“I’ll never forgot that semi-final (against Sydney FC last season) when they got beat 6-1, seeing their faces.
“They are amongst the biggest fans in the country, what’s been going beforehand must have been so frustrating for them.
“To see them put in a performance like that, It really has set the bar for them.
“There’s no excuse why they can’t put that in week in, week out.”
Much has been made of Victory’s abject form as they slipped to their worst-ever start to a Hyundai A-League campaign, but due to the incredibly tight nature of the 2019/20 Hyundai A-League campaign they have yet to be punished for their early woes.
Their Christmas Derby win lifted the Victory into seventh, equal with Wellington Phoenix on 12 points who are one of the form sides of the competition.
The questions surrounding the Victory at present are not so much about whether they can make the Hyundai A-League finals – they certainly can the wins keep coming – but are more so aimed at whether or not their performance against City is a sign of things to come, or just an anomaly in what has been a largely disappointing campaign.
The Victory have been blighted by injuries, but the returning Tim Hoogland made an enormous impact in Marco Kurz’s backline – an impact Kurz predicted pre-game – while Toivonen, Robbie Kruse and Andrew Nabbout started up front together for the fourth game in a row as they continue to build up an offensive rapport.
The result was made all the more impressive by City’s position on the table, but question marks will arise of their own form as they slumped to a second disappointing loss in the space of three games.
Sandwiched in between a defeat to Perth Glory and the Victory on Saturday was an impressive 4-0 win over Newcastle, but the chinks are slowly starting to show in City’s armour.
For Brosque, the problems lie much deeper than the surface for City, who he believes fail to show their prestigious stature when their big-name rivals come knocking.
“Since they were taken over, they have a big-club feel about them, but when it’s needed it’s not there. It’s just not there,” Brosque said.
“These big games, they need to stand up and get these wins and they haven’t been doing that and it’s happened again this year.”
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Are Perth Glory in the Championship frame?
A torrid start to the season had everyone sleeping on the reigning Premiers, but Tony Popovic’s side have bounced back into contention in supreme style.
Three wins on the trot, 11 goals scored and just two goals conceded, culminating in their 6-2 thrashing of Newcastle Jets on Saturday night, makes for happy reading if you are a Glory fan.
Popovic’s side moved into the top four after their Round 11 win, and they will take great encouragement from looking above them on the table; both Melbourne City and Western United – who sit in second and third respectively – have shown their own frailties this season, and the Glory are well within their rights to expect to overtake both sides if they can keep their current form going.
Catching the Sky Blues in first is another kettle of fish for the Glory, who sit 10 points behind the league leaders, but as we’ve seen in a tightly contested opening 11 rounds of play, anything is possible in the 2019/20 Hyundai A-League campaign.
Glory won their first two games of their mini-streak on the back of imperious defensive displays, as their central defenders contributed to back-to-back clean sheets while scoring goals down the other end of the field.
But Saturday’s crushing win over the Jets was all about Perth’s attack as Bruno Fornaroli and Diego Castro both produced vintage displays, scoring two goals apiece on a day when the Glory announced themselves as a dark horse for the 2019/20 Hyundai A-League Championship.
Where to now for the Jets?
The results looked promising for a while, but it’s now becoming clear the Jets are in a rut.
Ernie Merrick’s side slipped to the bottom of the table after their second crushing loss in a row at the hands of the ruthless Glory.
They’ve conceded 12 goals in the last three rounds as the absence of key players begins to take its toll; Abdiel Arroyo and captain Nigel Boogard missed the clash while marquee import Wes Hoolahan will remained sidelined until well into the new year.
It’s not a pretty scenario for the Jets but, with a home clash against Brisbane Roar in Round 12 – who sit on eight points alongside the Jets at the bottom of the table – Merrick’s side have a chance to inspire some positivity in what’s been a testing two weeks at the club.
Mariners show signs of life
Central Coast Mariners backed up their promising performance against Sydney FC in Round 10 with a gritty win over a heavily favoured Adelaide United on Sunday afternoon, suggesting Alen Stajcic’s side may just be turning a corner at the right time.
The Mariners leapfrogged the Jets and the Roar into ninth position, and within touching distance of the top six, with their 2-1 win over the Reds at Central Coast Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Mariners have often looked a decent side to start the season; their players look to enjoy playing under Stajcic and look to be buying into his game style.
They huffed and puffed against the Sky Blues in Round 10 but failed to score against the league leaders, but this weekend poses yet another fantastic challenge for the Mariners who will pit themselves against the red-hot Glory on New Year’s Eve.
The Mariners enjoyed a shock win over the Glory in Perth in Round 4 and will hope for similar success at Central Coast Stadium in Round 12, but beating the Premiers is a whole new proposition after their remarkable uplift in form of late.
Dávila howler reminds Sky Blues they’re human after all
A clash with Wellington Phoenix was always shaping as a danger game for Sydney FC, and if not for a costly miss by Ulises Dávila with the game at 2-2 in the second half, the Sky Blues may just have been beaten.
Instead their undefeated run extended to seven games, but the 2-2 draw with the Phoenix put an end to Sydney’s six-game winning streak which begun off the back of losing to Western Sydney Wanderers in Round 3.
It’s the second hairy result in a row for Sydney who narrowly escaped with a 1-0 win against the Mariners last weekend.
After handsomely defeating Perth, Western United and Brisbane through Rounds 7 to 9, Sydney’s most recent performances against the Mariners and the Phoenix send a reminder to the league that they are not to be feared as the unbeatable beast they were shaping to be just weeks ago.