Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat has questioned the quality of the playing surface at North Harbour Stadium after watching his side slump to a 2-0 Hyundai A-League loss to Wellington Phoenix.
Large parts of the pitch were quite bare in terms of coverage with green paint used to disguise a lack of grass.
“The game shouldn’t have been played there,” said Muscat afterwards.
“In this day and age to play elite professional sport on that … they’ve got something wrong. That is substandard for elite football. It’s as simple as that,” he said.
“We’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of playing on a few cricket pitches but apart from the cricket pitch the rest of the surface is OK. The last time I checked, grass is a pretty vital ingredient for a game of football. Unfortunately there was none there today.”
Muscat was adamant the quality of the playing surface contributed to a poor game of football.
“The majority of people are going to leave here happy because Wellington won and rightly so. But if we analyse the football, that wasn’t a good game. It was a contest but it wasn’t a good game of football. Neither team – not just us – could play good football.”
“The successful passing rate is definitely the worst of any A-League game this season and that’s not by coincidence because both teams like to pass the ball. Wellington were at 52% passing success, so one in two passes they gave away and that’s got nothing to do with the way they play. It’s got to do with the surface.”
“Ninety percent of the game is played on the grass and there wasn’t any grass today. There was some green sand,” he said.
But the Victory mentor also lamented his side’s inability to adjust to the conditions.
“I don’t want to wake up tomorrow and read that I’m moaning about the pitch. I don’t want you to think I’m saying this because we got beat. We weren’t good enough in the first half.”
“We were well aware of the conditions and we were forced to come away from how we like to play. If we’d got something out of the game, we’d have relied heavily on luck because we’re playing the game not how we’re used to. If we’re not trying to replicate things we’re doing on the training ground, we’re almost relying on a bit of luck.”
But Muscat believes more should be done to avoid a repeat.
“We received an email to say the integrity of the football will not be compromised and the surface is good enough. But the wellbeing of the players was at risk tonight because no-one could control the ball so it invites people to tackle.
"Ask the players if the integrity of the contest was jeopardised tonight. Without doubt. The standards that we set and the criteria for the game to be played need to be higher,” he said.