Merrick praises players

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has paid tribute to his players after they went down to Sydney FC on penalties in the Hyundai A-League Grand Final on Saturday night.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has paid tribute to his players after they went down to Sydney FC on penalties in the Hyundai A-League Grand Final on Saturday night.

After Mark Bridge had given the visitors the lead at Etihad Stadium only for Adrian Leijer to equalise and force the match to extra time, the Victory missed two of their spot kicks as Sydney FC eventually prevailed 4-2 to seal the premiership-championship double.

But having guided his team through a difficult campaign that saw several players battle injury at crucial times and also having to also get its AFC Champions League campaign underway during the finals, Merrick was proud of his players especially after Archie Thompson was out of the game after just a dozen minutes.

"Key player to lose but I thought the boys fought back really well and Marvin did well up front and coming from behind but we just struggled to get players in the box - and you have got to get players in the box to score," Merrick lamented.

"It was pretty hard to play our best - with first of all losing Archie - but we played some good football."

"We had a problem in midfield which we fixed quite well at half-time and I thought the second half we played quite well."

"It's been a very good year all round but we lost the grand final which we didn't intend to do and we have lost the Premiers' Plate so it's not as successful as it should have been."

"Our boys have been fantastic - we have had a good year but you can't call it successful if you don't take out the Premiers' Plate and the Grand Final but (we've got) a good bunch here and we will be back in with another chance next year."

"It's tough to take (but you) can't do anything about it - that is the nature of the game."

Having congratulated the victors, Merrick was also unsure how his men will back up on Tuesday night in Japan against Kawasake Frontale, the team having had to depart Melbourne immediately after the game for their long trip.

"They are a pretty tough bunch, this is just one of many setbacks we have had this year and we still got to the Grand Final despite the setbacks we have had and this bunch will pick themselves up mentally but physically is another question - that will be really tough," he said.

"I come back to the players we have got - we have got a fantastic bunch of players and very talented and we have got good depth and we kept coming back from very difficult situations and even after 120 minutes we did well and in the final hurdle it was just tough on the boys."