Melbourne Victory continued its dismal run of recent results with a two-nil loss at home to Central Coast Mariners at Olympic Park last night in front of 13,892 fans. Four home games in succession have produced no goals and three defeats.
Victory welcomed back skipper Kevin Muscat and Socceroo Archie Thompson, though Thompson started on the bench after his Australian duties and the celebrations which followed. Central defender Geoffrey Claeys was out with a groin problem allowing youngster Daniel Piorkowski to continue to partner Geelong’s teenager Adrian Leijer in central defence. Ricky Diaco had his first A-League start alongside Daniel Allsopp in attack and Andy Vlahos dropped to the bench. The Mariners were missing two of their stars, former Melbourne Knight Tom Pondeljak and Andre Gumprecht.
In 9 minutes keeper Eugene Galekovic threw the ball to Muscat who found Richard Kitsbichler clear on the right. The Austrian winger’s low cross was thrashed over the bar by Allsopp with the goal gaping.
Two minutes later Vince Lia created another opening for Allsopp but this time he put the free header wide. Allsopp has only scored one goal this season and while his work rate cannot be faulted, his confidence in shooting positions has deserted him.
For the Mariners, Damien Brown’s quick free kick released Dean Heffernan whose driven cross was carried over the line by keeper Galekovic. The errors continued when Galekovic handled outside the penalty area and Vince Lia got himself booked for kicking the ball away in 37 minutes. From the free kick Brown struck a swinging ball into the area and former Morwell Falcon John Hutchinson got a slight touch to deflect it past Galekovic for the Mariners’ opening goal.
Victory had not scored in six hours of play when the half-time whistle blew and the patient crowd were shouting for Archie Thompson to make an appearance. But the first Victory substitution was Vlahos for defensive midfielder Steve Pantelidis at half-time. Rain began to fall heavily making the pitch slippery as the Victory chased the game in the second half. Not till 63 minutes had passed did coach Ernie Merrick swap Thompson for Diaco. Thompson was soon in the action with a pass just ahead of Vlahos.
In 74 minutes Brown split the Victory defence with a pass to Dean Heffernan who quietened the home crowd with a simple second goal for the Mariners. Victory looked bereft of ideas in the last fifteen minutes and the Mariners played out time with little difficulty.
One strange statistic in the new A-League is that there have been 24 away wins and only 15 home wins, a reversal of the normal pattern in most leagues around the world.
(Alan Clark supplied the last point. An edited version of this article appeared in the Geelong Advertiser on Saturday 19 November 2005, p. 98.)