Merrick: Suspensions hurt us
Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick admitted the club's rash of suspensions this season finally caught up with his team on Saturday night.
Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick admitted the club's rash of suspensions this season finally caught up with his team on Saturday night as they surrendered top spot on the Hyundai A-League ladder in suffering a shock 2-0 home loss to an injury-hit Sydney FC.
But while Merrick was left to ponder the absence of his star striker Archie Thompson - after he picked up the club's fourth red card of the season during last week's 1-0 loss to Newcastle - Sydney was celebrating the return to form of its star striker John Aloisi, who scored his first goal of the season for his new club ending a barren spell since joining from the Central Coast Mariners.
Merrick admitted Sydney - which was missing the likes of Tony Popovic, Iain Fyfe, Clint Bolton, Alex Brosque and Simon Colosimo to either injury or suspension - fully deserved its win but admitted his team looked toothless in attack with Thompson serving the first of his two match ban after being sent off for swearing at the referee in Newcastle last week.
"It was an extremely scrappy first half performance from Melbourne Victory but while the second half was full of effort and we got the ball forward, we just didn't have a goalscorer," he said.
While Merrick went with an attacking line-up with Carlos Hernandez and Tom Pondeljak pushed up forward to support Danny Allsopp in the absence of Thompson and another suspended absentee in Ney Fabiano - Victory barely had a shot on goal throughout the 90 minutes.
"There is no doubt we paid the price for red cards with Fabiano and Archie Thompson missing," Merrick said.
"The number of times we got forward and had nothing to show for it - not even one goal - and we hardly had a quality strike on target."
But while Merrick was left to lament his side's lack of strikepower, Sydney FC coach John Kosmina watched as Aloisi finally broke his duck while his partner up front in Mark Bridge scored only his second goal after joining from Newcastle this season.
"Our guys were in the right frame of mind and we got the goal we deserved because we had a couple of good chances before that," he said of Bridge's 20th minute opener.
"And while the result here is great it's more about the fact we didn't go well last week (in losing to bottom side Perth) but we picked ourselves up and took it to the top side in the competition."
Aloisi meanwhile was thrilled to finally get his first goal of the season but admitted to being disappointed that Kosmina elected to start him on the bench - after six matches without a goal so far this season.
"Of course I was angry to be on the bench and I don't think you would be a good professional if you are not angry about being on the bench," the former Socceroos striker said after the game.
"You always want to start and do well for your club but I was happy I got on and scored."
"You are always under pressure as a striker to score goals no matter who you are - a bit more when you at the marquee player - but hopefully now this will give me some confidence and I can score goals again on a regular basis."