Victory feeling the pinch

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has conceded that a tough run with injuries combined with the scheduling of both the Hyundai A-League finals and the Asian Champions League is starting to take its toll on the Victory.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has conceded that a tough run with injuries combined with the scheduling of both the Hyundai A-League finals and the Asian Champions League is starting to take its toll on the Victory.

Melbourne lost 1-0 to Beijing Guoan in its ACL opener in China on Tuesday night and Merrick was disappointed with what he said was an uncharacteristic performance in China with his team hardly mustering a decent shot on goal while Beijing bossed the game, especially in the first half.

"It was a very disappointing first half. We were second to the ball. We continued to lose possession in the midfield, any ball that went forward we lost possession of and we seem to be constantly under attack," he said.

"Ultimately, we didn't have a goal scorer and we were hoping to get a draw out of it, but we didn't."

Merrick felt that the injury problems that have beset the club in recent weeks may have contributed to a flat performance, while the tight scheduling was also proving taxing on the players mentally and physically.

"When you are continually playing players out of position. Every time we play someone at left back we lose them," he said.

"It's virtually the same all over the pitch. We've basically struggled to have a competent midfield. I've had to move Leigh Broxham all over the place."

"The same can be said for up front. Nik Mrdja has done a reasonable job, but he hardly touched the ball."

"He was kept out of the game. There was no service from midfield. You can only move players around so much and that took its toll yesterday."

Merrick admitted that the team missed marquee striker Archie Thompson and partner Robbie Kruse badly and that it needed them back for the upcoming Hyundai A-League clash against Sydney and ACL battle against Korean outfit Seongnam.

"It's very hard to lose our two main strikers, Robbie Kruse and Archie Thompson, both have had terrific years," Merrick said.

"Carlos (Hernandez) really misses those two boys, with their pace and ability to hold possession up for him. That's what went wrong last night, every time the ball went forward, we lost possession."

"With Robbie and Archie, not only can we keep possession of the ball, but we can create and score goals out of nothing."

"That's a big difference in football. Archie is crucial to a real tilt at the championship, there's no doubt about it."

The likelihood of Thompson and Kruse being fit for the Sydney game is unlikely to be known until early next week.

The Melbourne coach also flagged having to use several youth league players in the match against Seongnam, which falls just two days after the second leg of the major semi-final against Sydney.

"I've got a strong feeling I'm going to have to use a number of youth team players, the likes of young (Matthew) Foschini, Aziz Behich, Stephen Hatzikostas," he said.

"There's a number of youngsters which will be in consideration for that and that will be a very tough match against Seongnam Ilwha, who are a very good side."