Merrick praises young guns

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick walked away from his latest visit to Sydney a contented man despite the Sky Blues snatching a 1-1 draw thanks to a last-gasp equaliser from their new Finnish import Juho Makela.

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick walked away from his latest visit to Sydney a contented man despite the Sky Blues snatching a 1-1 draw thanks to a last-gasp equaliser from their new Finnish import Juho Makela.

The Victory were without several key squad members and Merrick said that not only was a draw a fair result, but that crucially his youngsters came through an intense contest with flying colours.

Already without the key trio of Archie Thompson (hamstring), Robbie Kruse (Socceroos duty) and Kevin Muscat (suspended), as well as long-term injury absentee Surat Sukha - the Victory were dealt a further blow on Friday with Evan Berger and Adrian Leijer ruled out for the grand final rematch.

Merrick promoted Petar Franjic into the heart of the backline for his Hyundai A-League debut and the youth team player did not disappoint.

Equally important to the Victory extending their unbeaten run against the champions to six matches were half-time substitutes Mate Dugandzic and Matthew Foschini.

The pair played a key role in reversing the momentum of the match with the Victory opening the scoring through Danny Allsopp just minutes after the interval, despite the home side playing some of their best football this season in the opening half.

"We have several youngsters that have come through our youth team and Victorian Premier League clubs," said Merrick.

"We had to play four of them today - Petar [Franjic], Mathew Foschini, Mate Dugandzic and Diogo Ferreira - and these boys just slotted straight in where they are expected to play and they did their job so I think that says a lot for our development."

Adding to Merrick's woes were concerns over marquee player Carlos Hernandez whose inspired pass set up the first goal, and midfield workhorse Grant Brebner.

"Carlos is a great passer of the ball because he has tremendous vision," Merrick said in reference to the Costa Rican's role in Allsopp's goal.

"It was actually touch and go if he [Hernandez] was going to play today. He played with a calf injury and [Grant] Brebner played with vision in only one eye for most of the second half."

The result leaves Sydney FC with just a feint hope of reaching the finals though their first half form suggests the champions are slowly hitting form ahead of their upcoming AFC Champions League campaign.

The instant success of new Finnish striker Juho Makela is also buoying coach Vitezslav Lavicka with the tall target-man having now bagged two critical injury-time goals in successive substitute appearances for the Sky Blues.

"He needs more time to settle at the club but he is a good striker and can be on the park for just two minutes and create a good chance," Lavicka said.

"He is a very good player for us."