Melbourne Victory captain Adrian Leijer believes his team made a statement with their brave performance in the 3-2 win over Gold Coast United on Sunday
Melbourne Victory captain Adrian Leijer believes his team made a statement with their brave performance in the 3-2 win over Gold Coast United on Sunday.
Under-fire after managing just one win in their opening seven games, Victory shot into third spot on the Hyundai A-League table thanks to Carlos Hernandez's 79th-minute header at AAMI Park.
Despite being reduced to 10 men when defender Rodrigo Vargas was sent off for a nasty challenge on Golgol Mebrahtu, Victory found a winner through Hernandez.
A proud Leijer, who led an undermanned back four, said his team had sent a message after a difficult week.
"It's a big boost for us. The first 35 minutes - when we had 11 men - we were sensational," he said.
"That's what we spoke about during the week, our tempo - all over the pitch - was fantastic."
"We came out, we really wanted to win. We were disappointed with what's been going on off the park, we wanted to make a statement and that's what we did and then the game was turned on its head (with the red card)."
"Unfortunately, they brought it back to 2-2, but we showed a lot of character. When our club's been hit as hard as it has, for the boys to stand up and deliver a performance like that, it's fantastic for the club."
The entertaining contest saw Harry Kewell score for the first time in Victory colours, while Hernandez and Gold Coast's Dylan Macallister also netted from the penalty spot in the opening 45 minutes.
Dutchman Peter Jungschlager equalised for United as they looked likely to find a winner before Hernandez popped up to nod in a cross from Archie Thompson.
Victory held firm in defence as Isaka Cernak, Diogo Ferreira and Leigh Broxham finished alongside Leijer as the back four after Vargas was sent off and Fabio went down with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury.
Victory coach Mehmet Durakovic lauded the character of his team as they battled to take three points despite their numerical disadvantage.
"They showed some character on that pitch. All week we've worked on trying to move the ball and trying to get the high tempo going and in the first half I thought we did that well," he said.
"The character the boys showed in the second half - I can't ask for any more."
"The boys showed character and worked for one another and we came out on top. It's never easy playing with 10 men, but it just goes to show the character of the players, especially playing at home."