Merrick proud of youth

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick was left satisfied with his team's performance despite going down 3-2 to Seongnam Ilhwa in their final AFC Champions League match.

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick was left satisfied with his team's performance despite going down 3-2 to Seongnam Ilhwa in their final AFC Champions League match.

Going into the match in last place in the group and no chance of qualifying, the Victory were given little chance of challenging the group winners.

Melbourne was also without first-choice players Robbie Kruse, Nik Mrdja and Rody Vargas as well as knee victims Archie Thompson, Billy Celeski and Matthew Kemp.

But despite that the Victory bravely fought back from a goal down twice only to concede the winner with eight minutes remaining.

Merrick was proud of the young players that stepped up in particular second half substitute Mate Dugandzic, who scored within 60 seconds of the restart and almost added another just minutes later.

"I thought we kept possession well in the midfield in the first half. When we went forward we kept losing the ball and couldn't get a strike on goal," Merrick said.

"Our passing game was one of the best we've had in the ACL, so to finish the campaign with that type of game was good for us. Seongnam was easily top of the group and only lost one match."

"Mate (Dugandzic) got one goal and should have had a second."

"Mate is a young player knocking on the door. Had a knee injury and was out for seven weeks (of the A-League season). Ligament damage and struggled to get back into the team. But he's fully fit now and did well when he came on and got into goalscoring positions."

Football Federation Australia has introduced a new rule for the next season of the A-League which allows clubs to sign up to three National Youth League players to minimum wage contracts outside the salary cap.

Merrick gave a few of the younger players in his squad a chance to impress on Wednesday night and he was very pleased with how Diogo Ferreira and Luke Pilkington performed.

"We were looking at the youngsters we're going to sign. Can sign three more under 21. Luke Pilkington, Diogo Ferreira and a few others, it's time to make a decision and those two did themselves a favour," he said.

"As far as the young players are concerned, we've got a lot of good quality youngsters coming through."

The Victory will train for two more weeks until Kevin Muscat's testimonial match on Friday May 14 before having a four-week break and returning in mid-June.