Melbourne Victory’s star studded line-up has eked out results this campaign, but for the first five rounds, it hasn’t quite clicked into gear.
Tonight, they finally showed what they are capable of. Despite injuries to James Troisi and Georg Niedermeier, Kevin Muscat’s side produced a silky attacking display that completely blew an inexperienced Wanderers outfit out of the water.
The first half was so one-sided, it was akin to watching a Harlem Globetrotters v Washington Generals exhibition game. Victory turned the Wanderers inside and out with their sharp pass-and-move football, all orchestrated by the magnificient Keisuke Honda.
3-0 at the interval was a fair reflection of play – in truth, it could have been a lot worse for the visitors.
No doubt copping a halftime hairdryer from their German trainer, not to mention a double substitution, the Wanderers managed to stem the tide. But Antonis’ thumping finish was a fitting exclamation point to cap off the best team performance the A-League has seen this season.
Lawrence Thomas - 7
Was a virtual spectator in the first half. Displayed commendable bravery to come off his line and punch crosses in no-man’s land – especially considering the sickening collision he suffered in last season’s grand final.
Storm Roux - 7
A neat and tidy display from the Kiwi fullback, who defended his flank diligently and got forward when he could.
Thomas Deng – 8.5
A dominant performance from a young man who continues to go from strength to strength. Continually stepped out to make challenges and interceptions, and he won almost everything.
Nick Ansell – 7.5
Yellow carded in the first half after cleaning out Riera. Solid defensive display, and played the ball out of the back confidently.
Corey Brown – 7
Similarly to Roux, he played his role without standing out. Didn’t need to get forward very often, as the players ahead of him were already opening up the defence.
Carl Valeri – 7.5
Did the unfashionable stuff at the base of midfield to give his star-studded side a platform. Made an inch-perfect tackle to deny Kamau in the second half, and deputised at centre back when Ansell picked up a knock.
Raul Baena - 8
Showed his pedigree with constructive forward passing and lovely touches in tight areas. Tucked home his first goal for his new club, putting Elrich on the floor with a crafty fake before burying a controlled strike deep in the far bottom corner. Substituted shortly after halftime due to injury.
Terry Antonis - 9
A truly breathtaking turn and assist for Honda’s opening goal. Relished the freedom of the #10 role, and looked like he was having fun out there. Half-volleyed home emphatically for Victory’s fourth. A joy to watch.
Keisuke Honda – 10
One of the most spectacular individual performances we’ve ever seen in the A-League. Full stop. Opened the scoring with a fabulous header and completely ran the game, making interceptions, taking on players, and playing beautiful one and two-touch passes.
His approach seemed contagious, and his on-field leadership was obvious. To quote Andy Harper, he gave the Wanderers an “utter pantsing”.
Kosta Barbarouses – 8
Very lively, providing pace and width to complement Toivonen. Made a fool out of Elrich to earn the penalty, which he duly stepped up and converted. Continually stretched the Wanderers’ defence with his pace off the shoulder. He is clearly growing into his new role.
Ola Toivonen – 8.5
Missed a glorious opportunity in the third minute when put through one on one with Janjetovic. Involved in the build-up for Victory’s brilliant first goal, and provided a reference point for the Victory attacks, dropping off the frontline to link up with the midfielders.
Delicately teed up Antonis for the fourth goal. His return from injury has been a major catalyst for the gelling of this side.
Leigh Broxham – 6
Hardly caught the eye, but played his role as diligently as usual. The Victory undoubtedly lost a degree of fluency when he replaced the injured Baena.
Josh Hope – N/A
Not given enough time to influence the match. C’mon Musky – the game’s won! Put the youngsters on earlier!
Rahmat Akbari – N/A
Came on in the 86th minute.
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS
Vedran Janjetovic – 7
Couldn’t do much to prevent any of the goals, and made good stops from Toivonen (twice) and Honda. Even Antonis’ strike – directly down the middle – was hit with such ferocity, it’s difficult to criticise him.
Josh Risdon – 7
Always showed positive intent with the ball. Overloads down his flank gave him some trouble – but that was a failing of the team and the tactics.
Tarek Elrich – 3
Brutally exposed by Victory’s fluid attacking play. Markus Babbel has gotten away with Elrich as a makeshift centre back this season, but tonight’s display shows this is no permanent solution.
A train wreck of a performance, summarised by his attempt to head a ball less than two feet off the ground, which led him clattering into Kosta Barbarouses to concede a penalty.
Brendan Hamill – 4
Woeful defending for the second goal. Looked off the pace and helpless against Barbarouses’ running and the Victory’s short, sharp passing.
Raul Llorente - 5
Looked ropey defensively, particularly in the first half, where he was often beaten one on one or caught out of position. Improved in the second and sent in several teasing crosses.
Jordan O’Doherty - 4
Gave the ball away far too often and far too cheaply. Was defensively at sea – although he was often outnumbered. Deservedly substituted at halftime, and the team improved in his absence.
Keanu Baccus - 5.5
Outclassed and failed to protect his back four. Won few challenges and missed some interceptions he should have made. His passing accuracy was high, as per usual, but often distributed backwards and sideways. To his credit, he improved markedly in the second half.
Bruce Kamau – 6.5
Patchy and inconsistent performance, but provided some positive moments. A creative outlet for the Wanderers in an improved second half. Put Riera through for what should have been the consolation goal.
Alex Baumjohann – 7.5
Came close with a free kick from 30 yards. Put Kamau through on goal with a lovely through ball, but the winger was ruled marginally offside. By far the Wanderers’ best player, but often dropped too deep to receive the ball, limiting his influence. Substituted with 15 minutes to play, as Babbel clearly realised the match was lost.
Abraham Majok - 4
Had a shot early in the match when he should have passed to an overlapping Llorente. Seemed a little lost, didn’t track back enough, and was substituted at halftime.
Oriol Riera – 4.5
Given some seriously rough treatment by the Victory defence – including Lawrence Thomas, who collected both the ball and the Spainiard’s head. Riera himself was lucky to get away with an off-the-ball bit of roughhousing on Ola Toivonen.
Missed a sitter on the stretch from six yards, but a marginal offside call spared his blushes. Put through one on one in stoppage time, but hit his shot straight at Thomas.
Mark Tokich - 7
The rangy youngster was a big upgrade on O’Doherty, and contributed much to the Wanderers’ second half stemming of the navy blue tide. Has a calm assuredness in possession that belies his tender years.
Jaushua Sotirio – 6
Didn’t offer a lot in attack, but provided the defensive work ethic that Majok was lacking.
Nick Fitzgerald – N/A
The game was long over as a contest prior to his introduction.