Brisbane overturned a horrendous record in Melbourne to stun Victory - not many could see this 3-0 result coming
Brisbane overturned a horrendous record in Melbourne to stun the Victory on Saturday night, not many could see this 3-0 result coming.
In a bright and enjoyable first half, the opening 20 provided Victory’s best football of the match. But as has become the norm this season, proceeded to squander it in front of goal. Fans could be forgiven for wondering, what if? Of course the match would have turned out differently had Victory poached one early.
Leijer sees red
The problem is, when you play with fire as often as Adrian Leijer did in this match (coming in with tackles from behind twice), the house will very likely burn down. It very much did as Victory went 3-0 down and lost Leijer shortly after. The club leader and stalwart has had to defend his position in the team this season, which is a first for him and something he may have struggled with over the early season.
The next 70 minutes was either the sign of a team where not all is well or just a team that failed to keep up once Roar really clicked. From my usual vantage point, the stands, Victory looked simply overawed by the pressing and didn’t have a plan B to work it out.
Kevin Muscat admitted at his Friday and post-game press conferences that the Victory midfielder has had to “think about” about his offer from Cerezo Osaka and “has a lot on his mind”. He was removed from the match at half-time and it certainly appears that, while not exactly horrible, Nichols has dropped off the pace he set early in the season. It may be best to act now and accept an offer, rather than keep a player whose mind may be elsewhere.
Won’t get easier (or harder)
The good news is that it won’t get any harder than facing that good a side, the bad news is a core of the club’s first team youth in Nick Ansell, Jason Geria, Scott Galloway and Connor Pain will head off on international duty. Often when the personnel changes, the system needs to as well. If we cast minds back to the losses of Billy Celeski and Marco Rojas, the system hasn’t changed with them. That may be something for Muscat to consider, this is the moment he needs to be proactive and changes what ought to be.
With Berisha out, Mike Mulvey clearly had to change not just a member of his squad, but his formation. Broich, as he did last week, stepped into a more central "false nine” role, sitting next to Luke Brattan high up when they lost possession. The formation helped set the tone, as Brisbane often outnumbered Victory in contests over the pitch, even before they had the extra man. It help keep them fluent and flexible in attack, with many of the players interchangeable.
With the ball…
Were always decisive and confident. Off the ball movement and runs made it happen, the passes stuck and made Victory chase shadows. Despite the slow(ish) start, it all somehow clicked for the league-leaders and Victory couldn’t get a sniff. Conventional wisdom suggests what happens off the ball is just as important as what happens when on the ball. Roar proved that on Saturday.
Without the ball…
They repeatedly hunted down Victory and closed them down instantly. When attacking, the player on the ball would have numerous options with all on the move. The second goal from Matt McKay was the perfect illustration of that. On this night, it would not have mattered if Victory had all 10 men inside the box, Brisbane still would have scored, the spaces that were opened up were glaring.
Will Berisha return?
It seemed impossible that your humble correspondent would be pondering this question at this stage of the season, but it is now a very real question: what does Mulvey do with a fit Besart Berisha? His return is imminent as he is likely to return this weekend, but it may have to be an off-the-bench role.
To the 2013-14 A-League Premiers. Might sound presumptuous, but their commanding lead looks near unassailable now. Their standard of football stands head and shoulders over those chasing them, it does help to have a coach willing to adapt and change up, while still maintaining his attacking philosophy. a team that can win ugly as well, an important feature in finals football.