A big clash this past weekend awaited Ange Postecoglou’s Melbourne Victory, who faced the Central Coast Mariners, one of the hottest teams in the 2012-13 Hyundai A-League, at Aurora Stadium in Launceston, Tasmania. So, what was the boss going to preach to the first XI?
Three simple words: Close the gap.
“We bounced back to form really well last week, really pleased with our performance after our disappointing one at Western Sydney,” Postecoglou told Michael Huguenin for melbournevictory.com.au. “We’re pleased to go down to Tassie. Hopefully we get a good turn out and hopefully it becomes like a home game if we get some good support down there.”
In the end, all the Victory could muster was a 1-1 draw with the Mariners at Aurora. The contest was Archie Thompson’s 150th A-League appearance, a fitting milestone for one of the most resilent players in the domestic league.
But it wasn’t Thompson that would be the hero for Melbourne. Marcos Flores opened up the scoring in the 42nd minute thanks to a sequence that involved the team’s leading goalscorer Marco Rojas and defender Adema Traore.
Daniel McBreen spared Central Coast some blushes with a 77th-minute penalty, but not before Mariners manager Graham Arnold was sent off for dissent at the stroke of halftime. But even with Flores and McBreen taking center stage in Tasmania, this was all about Archie Thompson. Midfielder Mark Milligan was a true witness to history.
“There’s a few things you want to be remembered for when you finish your career and one of them is when someone asks you what team you played for you have a very firm answer,” Milligan told Damien Souness for melbournevictory.com.au. “Archie’s been here a long time and he’s been outstanding this year.
“I think he’s wound the clock back a couple of years. His work ethic on the training field and in games in amazing and he’s a great leader in his own way. Being the oldest one here now, he shows the young boys what it means to play for Victory and the passion and commitment needed to be a player here.”
Despite the draw, it was very clear that Tasmania was home turf for the Victorian sides, especially the Victory.
“We’re very privileged to play on AAMI Park or Etihad (Stadium) week in, week out and we’re very lucky in Melbourne to have such good surfaces,” Milligan added. “But coming down here, the pitch at Aurora was unbelievable. It definitely suited our game and I think we showed that in the first half.
“We still had the majority of the support here and it still felt like our home game.”
With the draw, Melbourne and Central Coast hold their spots in the top three of the league ladder. The Victory are now 8-3-5 (27 points) and continue their season on Jan. 19 against Perth Glory at nib Stadium.