While the Australian Football League is going through another Premiership season, the Hyundai A-League is going through its Finals Series. One of the teams that qualified for the 2012-13 Hyundai A-League Finals Series is Ange Postecoglou’s Melbourne Victory, who took on Perth Glory in an elimination final at Etihad Stadium on Friday.
The Victory, in their last match with Perth Glory, fell 3-2 thanks to some heroics from Josh Risdon in stoppage time. The defeat left a very bad taste in the mouths of everyone associated with Melbourne, especially Postecoglou. They were out to fix that coming in.
“Other clubs will probably be rapt to finish third, we haven’t been. We want to be top every year,” Postecoglou told Dejan Kalinic of melbournevictory.com.au on Tuesday. “When you put it against that measure, maybe people are underplaying how good we are, but that’s fine with me as well.
“I’d rather go in there with people underestimating us than thinking we’re going to take it all before us. I’ve been very hard on the players this year and they’ve come through it. I’ve been very pleased with the way they’ve come through it and I can tell you one thing – they’re ready for finals football.
“I guess it’s an interesting finals series this year where I think third and fourth are probably in a better position in this kind of finals series than probably in the previous ones. I know people are saying it gives fifth and sixth a chance and it certainly does but realistically to win it from fifth and sixth you have to win three games in a row away from home.
“Third spot was very important for us. We’re still a sneaky chance to host a grand final if the stars align. All those kind of things become important but really, with the nature of being cut-throat, you can only really focus on the game at hand.
“A football club is designed to be a successful one and that’s the nature of being part of Melbourne Victory. We’re certainly looking forward to participating in the finals series and challenging for it because last year was obviously a disappointing year for the club not making finals and making finals is the absolute bare minimum. We need to be challenging for it meaningfully every year and we think we’re a good chance this year.”
Midfielder Mark Milligan echoed the manager’s sentiments ahead of their match with Perth.
“I think we’re in decent form,” Milligan told Greig Johnston for melbournevictory.com.au. “There’s been a lot of interruptions for us. We’ve had some pretty serious injuries. We’ve blooded a lot of young boys, which is good coming into finals. There’s going to be a few of them starting this weekend. The results maybe haven’t been outstanding for us in the last four or five weeks, but again we draw a lot of confidence out of the win on the weekend.
“I think the last game, when we played them at home, both sides had some players missing. So things are always done slightly different when there’s players out and what not. The game style we’re going to play this weekend is obviously very similar. We’re aware of their strengths.
“But if we do the things that we’re taught and we do them correctly then we’re a really good shout. I think they showed last year too, that come finals time they can step up the intensity.”
Melbourne would do just that. And just like with the previous match, it would be determined in second-half stoppage time. All hope seemed lost after 90 minutes, with Ryo Nagai’s 15th-minute goal the would-be winner. In fact, had Shane Smeltz converted his spot kick, this would have gone to Alistair Edwards’s Glory.
On the counter from the penalty, Steve Pantelidis fouled Andrew Nabbout in the Glory penalty box, and Milligan converted in the 91st minute to make it 1-1 as Pantelidis earned his marching orders. And then in the fourth minute of the first period of extra time—in the 94th minute—Marco Rojas upped his stock with a cross that found Archie Thompson to make it 2-1 to Melbourne Victory. Perth were unable to deliver an equalizer of their own after 120 minutes were played.
But did luck have anything to do with this result? Not on your life, says Ange.
“(Milligan) could have missed the penalty and it takes some real heart (to take a late penalty) so we are dismissing that it was luck,” Postecoglou told Kieran Francis for melbournevictory.com.au. “We left it late and it wasn’t pretty but you still got to win the game and in my experience in football, particularly in finals games, the result is there when the referee blows his whistle. I’ve been on the (negative) end a couple of times and I’ve never deemed myself or the opposition lucky.
“As we’ve done a fair bit this year, we conceded a soft goal for no reason really. From then on it was pretty hard to dictate the tempo the way we wanted to because obviously (Perth) could sit back and we were the ones having to force the game.
“In a finals game the first goal is always important and from our perspective it just made things difficult. It’s probably been our Achilles heel all year that we just concede soft goals at bad times. Moving forward from that, we just kept persevering and if you keep doing that until the final whistle then the opportunity will come and sometimes it does come in the last minute of a game. From our perspective we take the result and move forward.”
It’s not going to get any easier for Melbourne. Up next for the Victory is a Preliminary Final match with Graham Arnold’s Central Coast Mariners next weekend at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford.
Melbourne Victory 2 (Milligan 90+1pen, Thompson 94)
Perth Glory 1 (Nagai 15)
Melbourne Victory: 5. Mark Milligan, 6. Leigh Broxham (21. Spase Dilevski 109), 10. Archie Thompson, 11. Marco Rojas, 14. Billy Celeski, 23. Adrian Leijer (C), 30. Jason Geria (9. Marcos Flores 49), 31. Scott Galloway (26. Andrew Nabbout 83), 32. Connor Pain, 33. Daniel Mullen, 39. Nathan Coe (GK)
Yellow Cards: Rojas 45+1, Geria 48, Broxham 53, Celeski 71, Leijer 75
Perth Glory : 1. Danny Vukovic (GK), 5. Steve Pantelidis, 7. Jacob Burns (C), 9. Shane Smeltz, 10. Liam Miller (28. Daniel De Silva 105), 11. Adrian Zahra (8. Dean Heffernan 63), 12. Ryo Nagai, 18. Matias Cordoba (14. Steven McGarry 91), 19. Josh Risdon, 21. Scott Jamieson, 23. Michael Thwaite
Yellow Cards: Jamieson 27, Pantelidis 68
Red Card: Pantelidis 90