Geelong Advertiser, Monday 18 September 2006, p. 36.
Melbourne Victory ran out one-nil winner over the Central Coast Mariners in its Round Four match in the A-League at Olympic Park yesterday. The crowd of 17,617 was a sell out with the capacity of the ground only a few hundred more.
Victory began with a series of three corner-kicks. Geelong’s Adrian Leijer met the last of these with a header which was repelled by keeper Danny Vukovic. Daniel Allsopp was just unable to force the rebound over the line.
The early play was all in the Mariners’ half of the field, but when the visitor did break Leijer took out Andre Gumprecht and was yellow-carded as a result. Gumprecht had to be substituted a few minutes later with Jamie McMaster taking his place.
Victory continued to create chance after chance in the first half with Socceroo Archie Thompson’s strong running causing chaos. In 17 minutes however when chasing a long ball he collided with Vukovic and was harshly booked for diving, even though he made no attempt to claim that he had been fouled and had got up to play on. Eight minutes later he skinned two defenders but his final shot was blocked for another fruitless corner-kick.
As often happens when one team dominates the play, the other makes a break and this time it was McMaster who took advantage of a slip by Daniel Piorkowski only for Victory keeper Michael Theoklitos to save with his legs and prevent a goal. Thompson and fellow striker Daniel Allsopp combined to give the former a clear shot on goal, but Vukovic modelled his save on the previous one by Theoklitos.
Kevin Muscat had a free header from another Kristian Sarkies corner as the Victory kept the pressure on until the interval.
There was a lot to admire in the Victory’s fluid play mixing long balls and one-touch passing through midfield, but unfortunately the finishing was not as effective. The second half began with the same pattern and Thompson sprang the offside trap in the 56th minute, rounded the keeper but was forced wide and no one could get on the end of his square ball across the goal area. That should have been a goal, but the breakthrough came a minute later when Steve Pantelidis sent over a cross from the right and Adelaide defender Paul O’Grady sliced it into the goal area. Allsopp lifted the loose ball over the keeper and Thompson completed the goal from right under the cross-bar.
Thompson and Allsopp both should have settled the game when clean through on goal again in separate incidents, but their failure meant the Mariners had a chance to equalise right at the end.
But if the Victory was unlucky in front of goal, the Central Coast has failed to score in four games and remains at the foot of the ladder, while the Victory remains on top with four wins from four games.
Ernie Merrick was delighted with his team’s all round performance. ‘We played them off the park. This was a team we had never beaten, so that was very satisfying,’ he said. ‘Rody Vargas was man of the match. His organising of the defence and the midfield is excellent. We needed that experience.’
Archie Thompson was candid afterwards. ‘We are going to win the league’. ‘I am combining well with Danny Allsopp. I nicked a goal off him this week. But I will give him one next time.’
Laurie McKinna, coach of the Mariners admitted ‘They deserved their one-nil win. We will have Nick Mrdja back soon. He will give us the presence up front. Andre Gumprecht has medial ligament damage and will be out for six weeks.’