Melbourne Victory got off to an excellent home start with a first-up win against Perth Glory in the pre-season cup. Archie Thompson scored just on the hour in an entertaining game which should assist Victoryĺ─˘s quest for the Melbourne football fansĺ─˘ allegiance.
Archie Thompson scored just on the hour, lobbing Glory goalkeeper Jason Petkovic from the point of the penalty-area.
ĺ─˙It was a scrappy win,ĺ─¨ said Victory coach Ernie Merrick after the game. ĺ─˙We had some very good passages of play, but I wouldnĺ─˘t get carried away with it. (Weĺ─˘re) just not playing consistently yet.ĺ─¨
Merrick had brought on Andy Vlahos for Steve Pantelidis at the break to give the team more drive, and this was an astute change. ĺ─˙I thought Steve did a good job, but I wanted a more creative midfielder.ĺ─¨
Glory coach Steve McMahon was not overly-concerned at the result. ĺ─˙Iĺ─˘m quite pleased with progress,ĺ─¨ he said. ĺ─˙Weĺ─˘ve still got a number of weeks before the main season starts, (but) our main goal is to (prepare) for 26 August.ĺ─¨
ĺ─˙We forced the issue once we went a goal behind. We had chances.ĺ─¨
Much of Victoryĺ─˘s drive came from young Kristian Sarkies in the engine-room of midfield, playing with a level of composure well beyond his eighteen years, and was the gameĺ─˘s stand-out player. ĺ─˙I thought he was outstanding,ĺ─¨ said Merrick.
Naum Sekalovski had the first shot of the game for Glory with just three minutes gone, but Victoryĺ─˘s first reply of note took until just before the quarter-hour when Austrian Richard Kitzbichler let fly after a meandering run which started well inside his own half.
Daniel Allsopp was later set free up the right from a Michael Ferrante pass, but his cross flashed across the face of goal without a Victory player near enough to get a touch.
Glory had claims for a penalty turned down just before the half-hour by referee Peter Green when Bobby Despotovskiĺ─˘s free-kick crashed off a rising wall. Ferrante had committed the foul on the edge of the penalty-area to set up the free-kick in a dangerous position.
ĺ─˙To be fair, it was only one hand,ĺ─¨ said McMahon to laughter. ĺ─˙We didnĺ─˘t even get a corner from it. Iĺ─˘m baffled.ĺ─¨
Just after the half-hour, Sarkies went on a storming run up the inside-left channel and then released Thompson wider to his right who had got behind Jamie Coyle. Thompson shot first time but over the bar.
The balance of play began to fall Victoryĺ─˘s way, but - as the half drew to a close - Perth Glory should have made more of some good possession from a corner which eventually led to a ball being played in to Despotovski inside the penalty-area, but the Glory striker shot over the bar.
Despotovski had an even better chance ten minutes after the break. Adrian Cacares had been Gloryĺ─˘s best avenue of attack and once again he was the architect of a dangerous move. His cross fell to Nick Ward who was able to squeeze the ball through to Despotovski as Muscat closed him down. Despotovski faced only goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos but scuffed his shot and the chance was gone.
Immediately the ball was played forward for Victory and Daniel Allsopp saw the assistantĺ─˘s flag raised saving him the embarrassment of putting the ball wide from one yard out as the ball crashed off the post from Thompsonĺ─˘s shot back into his path.
But Thompson brought off the moment of magic the game called out for on the hour. Ferrante had set free Kitzbichler who in turn found Thompson free up the right. Petkovic saw the danger and decided to try to get to the ball first. Thompson was quicker. He lifted the ball high over Petkovicĺ─˘s despairing leap and watched as it bounced into the net.
ĺ─˙Every time Archie gets the ball heĺ─˘s electric,ĺ─¨ said Merrick. ĺ─˙In fact, Iĺ─˘ve never seen him pass the ball unless (heĺ─˘s surrounded). If thereĺ─˘s five defenders, Archie would take them all on.ĺ─¨
Within a minute, Glory could have levelled. Despotovski again found himself in a good position and ready to strike but was swiftly closed down with a crunching tackle by Mark Byrnes which snuffed out the opportunity.
Victory could have extended the lead in a frantic close. Geoffrey Claeys saw a shot headed off the line from a corner, Kitzbichler brought out a fine save from Petkovic, and Thompson and Allsopp managed to waste an opportunity with Glory stretched.
Henry Faĺ─˘arodo was introduced late to the fray and almost turned the game for Glory. He had home hearts racing when he found himself in a similar position as Thompson did for Victoryĺ─˘s goal as he chased down a ball which Theoklitos raced out to collect. Faĺ─˘arodo got in first and lofted the ball, but it fell agonisingly wide of the near post.
Faĺ─˘arodo had another opportunity right at the death when he beat Victoryĺ─˘s offside trap on a Despotovski pass, but Theoklitos was able to get in a fine block for the save which confirmed it would be Victoryĺ─˘s night.