Melbourne Victory head coach Kevin Muscat says no amount of mitigating circumstances - real or imagined - can lessen the disappointment of his team’s 1-0 loss at home to the Newcastle Jets on Friday.
The Big V went into the game aiming to cement their status as league leaders at the expense of one of the Hyundai A-League’s struggling sides.
Instead they will now be looking over their shoulder after Sydney FC moved level on points courtesy of a comprehensive win away to Perth Glory in Western Australia later the same night.
It was announced earlier in the day that Glory, who are also level on points with Victory, will be excluded from this season’s finals series after being found guilty of breaching the salary cap.
But Muscat rejected suggestions the spectacular demise of a major rival had affected his team’s own mentality going into the game at AAMI Park.
“We could look to that, we could look to the amount of water on the pitch,” he added, referring to questions about players slipping over and the possibility of heavy handed sprinkler use.
“We could look to many different things. All we’d be doing is looking for excuses. There’s no excuses. And you won’t get any from anyone from that dressing room. On the night we didn’t do enough to win a game of football. It wasn’t from a lack of trying.
“A disappointing night for a number of reasons but we’re in a good position. We’re still in a very, very good position. But we are going to have to be better.”
The postponement of a match away to Brisbane Roar earlier this season means Victory have a game in hand over their Premier’s Plate rivals.
Muscat’s men will tackle the reigning champions twice in Queensland in the coming week, but the coach isn’t concerned about any adverse effects of the unusual fixture quirk.
“It is what it is as well,” he said.
“It’s just unfortunate the way it’s fell. It was the only mid-week (slot) available due to their Champions League commitments.
“The fact that we play them two times in four days, again, we could look at that and not fancy it, but that’s just an excuse. At these times you’ve got to really look at yourself and not search for excuses.”