Merrick never lost faith

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick insists that he never had any doubts that his team would win the Hyundai A-League Grand Final against Adelaide United on Saturday night.

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick insists that he never had any doubts that his team would win the Hyundai A-League Grand Final against Adelaide United on Saturday night.

Hot favourites going into the match after dispatching the Reds 6-0 on aggregate in the Major Semi-Final, and having smashed the same team 6-0 in the decider two years ago, Merrick had been predicting a much tighter affair this time around.

And that's how it panned out, with the visitors losing striker Cristiano in the 10th minute for a stray elbow that left Rody Vargas bleeding from a head wound before Tom Pondeljak's goal on the hour was followed soon after by Danny Allsopp's dismissal.

But while Adelaide followed a defensive first-half display after going a man down by attacking hard in the opening period of the second half, and then made a strong charge in search of a late equaliser, Merrick said he was always confident.

"It was one of those games that probably wasn't pretty, it was an edgy sort of game," Merrick said. "We probably could have gone ahead early if Eugene Galekovic hadn't pulled off a couple of terrific saves."

"And when they went down to 10 men they were very hard to break down, the bus was firmly there … and they were breaking well. But our boys hung in there, Tommy scored a fantastic goal, and we gutsed it out right to the end and I guess that's the sign of a championship team."

"But at no stage was I disappointed, I always felt confident with this team, it's a team you just go, 'this is a good team', and they could just about cope with anything and they did. I have to say I never had doubts about tonight at any stage."

Chuffed to have completed the Pre-Season Cup, Premiers' Plate and Championship treble, Merrick was just as delighted by the result because of the responsibility the players took in all aspects of the team.

"I have enjoyed this year, I think it's because the players have taken so much ownership of the team and the support staff have been fantastic," he added.

"You always know the board's going to be behind you, and just all the way through everything just ran so smoothly … and I had the most relaxed day and I'm going to stay longer than 20 minutes at the after-party tonight, I'm going to make the most of it."

As for its second crack at the AFC Champions League in 2010, Merrick is confident that the club will acquit itself much better when it ventures into Asia again.

"I think we've got a more solid squad, most of whom Gary Cole has signed up for the longer term, and there's still signings to complete, but we'll worry about that tomorrow," he said.

"We've got to try and look to the future and try and sign the players that will maybe … add to the culture of this club and the winning attitude. I think we'll have a good go at it because second time round we'll be ready."