Kevin Muscat has stopped short of suggesting Melbourne Victory are in crisis but insists results won’t improve unless his side works harder.
Victory produced another Jekyll and Hyde performance on Friday night in an incredible 3-3 draw with Central Coast Mariners in Geelong.
A woeful first half saw the Mariners race to a 3-0 lead at the break before Victory stormed back with a brace to Besart Berisha – including an injury-time header – and another to Archie Thompson salvaged a point.
The disappointing result against the Hyundai A-League’s bottom club means Victory have now won just one of their last seven games.
Asked if the champions are in crisis, a defiant Muscat told Fox Sports: “It can be a crisis in your eyes. Everyone’s got an opinion.
“Within the confines of those four walls there’s no crisis. Are we anywhere near where we want to be? No
“But there’s one way to play your way out of this, you have to work hard and in the first half as a collective - and I put myself in that boat - we didn’t work hard enough.”
Muscat was at a loss to explain his side’s first-half showing, repeatedly hit on transition by the Mariners lightning quick and lethal counter attacks.
“The first half was so disappointing, conceding very soft goals, almost to the point where we weren’t putting up a fight,” the Victory boss said.
“In the second half we rectified that and you can see how lethal we can be. Some of the chances that didn’t go in in the second half…you you’ve got to take these opportunities.
“We’ve gifted three goals and had to do it the hard way but all in all we should be happy to take a point at halftime. Credit where it’s due, second half the boys had a go and in the end they should have won it.”
Victory’s two-goal hero Berisha agreed with his coach’s sentiment, declaring they must lift their performances if the club is to put up a strong defence of their A-League crown.
“With our standards, with our players we have at the club, it’s not enough,” the Albanian told Fox Sports.
“This can never happen what happened to us tonight, first half it was just not good enough.
“The start was unbelievable. Every finish was a goal for the Mariners but I have to say to the boys still great work that we came out second half with a great attitude, we didn’t give up.
“It’s not easy at 3-0 to come back. This shows again how good we are but it can’t happen that first half.”
Victory will need to tighten things up in the next seven days as current league-leaders Brisbane Roar are their next challenge at AAMI Park next Friday night.