Merrick praises character

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has praised his side's character after the Victory recorded a gritty 1-0 win over Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday night to keep their hopes of qualifying for the second round of the AFC Champions League alive.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has praised his side's character after the Victory recorded a gritty 1-0 win over Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday night to keep their hopes of qualifying for the second round of the AFC Champions League alive.

Melbourne went into the game having not scored a point or even a goal in its three group games to date but a 60th-minute penalty from skipper Kevin Muscat was enough for the home side to open both of those accounts at Docklands Stadium.

Merrick was suitably proud of his players who had endured the week from hell last week when it lost the A-League Grand Final in a penalty shootout and then was thrashed 4-0 by Kawasaki in Japan.

"I thought it was a great effort by the boys. I mean we were beaten 4-0 over in Japan we turned that around to a 1-0 win and we did it well," he said.

"You've got to praise the group, whenever they need to, they pulled together. They've never let us down. They picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and went out and played extremely well."

Merrick said the match offered an opportunity for personal atonement for Muscat, who had missed from the spot the last time he took a penalty during the shootout loss to Sydney in the Grand Final.

"Kevin slotted his penalty away which was good for him after the Grand Final and we got a win out of it," Merrick said.

While it was Muscat's goal which decided the match, the star was Melbourne goalkeeper Mitch Langerak, who made several world-class saves to deny the visiting side.

"He's gone from bachelor of the year to goalkeeper of the year," Merrick said in reference to Langerak's nomination in magazine Cleo as one of the 50 most eligible men in Australia. "He was quite outstanding, some of his saves were just incredible."

Kawasaki coach Tsutomu Takahata said that Langerak's performance proved the difference between the two sides.

"He was amazing in this match. So many times when it looked as if we were about to score a goal, he pulled off great saves," he said through a translator. "There's no doubt that tonight he proved the difference for them."

Takahata said the travel factor had played a role in his side's flat performance.

"It's a long way over here and perhaps that was why we struggled tonight. Early in the match we couldn't assert ourselves on the match as we did last week. While it is not the whole reason, it is part of why we were unable to play the same quality of football," he said.

"It was clear that how Melbourne played last week was not their best. They are a very good side, a very disciplined side and they showed that tonight. We didn't put away our chances and they punished us."

While Melbourne has joined Kawasaki on three points on the table, Takahata is still confident his side has the ability to get through to the second round.

"It was not the result we wanted, but we still have three points and if we play our best football, we can get through," he said.