It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but a Robbie Kruse-inspired Melbourne Victory did what they had to do on Friday night to defeat Perth Glory and, potentially, save their season.
A move powered Victory favourites that have returned to the club in 2019/20 propelled Victory to their 1-0 win; Adama Traoré launching a ball into the area that Andrew Nabbout collected at the back post and sent back inside for Kruse to tap home.
The goal served as a fitting highlight for the Vuck number ten’s performance.
Setting the tone early when he hammered into Glory defender Ivan Franjic and deposited his former Socceroos teammate on his rear-end, Kruse exhibited a furious intensity to go along with his trademark attacking nous throughout the meeting at AAMI Park.
His goal combined with a Victory side that, responding to the pleas of their gaffer midweek, got the basics right in order to eke out a win over a more dominant Glory side.
The three points earned means that Victory, who entered the round in 11th place and in the midst of one of the worst starts in the club’s history, could end the round inside the top six if other results go their way.
While the performance against Perth is, in all likelihood, not a sustainable model for future success, the win and the topsy turvy nature of the A-League enables the club to shift the narrative ahead of next week’s game against Western United and eases the pressure on both the playing squad and Head Coach Marco Kurz.
“It’s massive,” Kruse said about what the win meant for team morale.
“I’ve got a really good connection with Marco - he’s German and I lived in Germany for 10 years.
“I was really feeling for him [this week] and he never showed to us that he was under pressure. He always protected us players and that’s what good managers do. He wore the brunt of everything.
“I’m really happy with the way the team reacted and fought for him and the coaches, hopefully, we can build on that.
“To be honest, us players really stood up and we had to take some initiative. The energy in training was much better and I think that’s where we’ve got to do moving forward now.
“It’s not always the coach’s fault. A lot of it was partially on us players not setting standards. I think this week was really good and it showed in the performance tonight.”
As well as serving as an important win, Friday night’s game was also a memorable one for Kruse on a personal level.
Making his first start for the club since arriving back in Australia after an injury cruelled pre-season, his goal was his first in the A-League since round 25 of the 2010/11 campaign.
“It’s been pretty testing in the last four months,” Kruse told media following the game.
“I had three recurring muscle injuries in the same hamstring, missed about 14 weeks, so it’s put me behind a lot. I really worked hard, and the physios really looked after me and got me back to fitness that can help me perform at a level.
“I’m really happy with the performance, myself and the team.
“Confidence in any sport is so, so vital. We probably didn’t have a lot coming into this game so hopefully, we can build on this.
“I really enjoyed my time here and Victory really helped to set me up for the career I had in Europe and with the national team so I was really excited to come back and perform for the club.
“It’s been disappointing not being able to help the team, especially when we’ve been going through some tough times.
“Really happy with the win tonight and to do it for Broxy [Leigh Broxham celebrated his 300th A-League game for Victory in the win] is really important for us in the team.”