Ten-man Melbourne Victory held on to deny Wellington Phoenix and force a 0-0 draw today with the contrasting directions of the clubs on display.
The two sides previously played out a 1-1 draw at the same ground in round five of the season when Ulises Davilla’s fifth-minute penalty cancelled out by Ola Toivonen’s 66th-minute solo effort.
With Robbie Kruse, Andrew Nabbout and Kristjen Dobras all missing that encounter, Victory Head Coach Marco Kurz insisted in the aftermath that his side’s quality “was coming.”
Much to the chagrin of Victory fans, though, that quality has largely failed to materialise for his side as a collective, with the addition of the trio failing to arrest a form slump that saw the four-time A-League champions enter the round second-bottom of the table.
Conversely, after a shaky early start, the ‘Nix’s green shoots are obvious and came into the match on the back of three-straight wins which taken them inside the top six. In contrast to Kurz, Ufuk Talay seemed to be adjusting to the challenges of life in a new job with aplomb.
And as the two sides locked horns in front of 12,023 at AAMI Park, their divergent forms played out on the pitch: Victory sputtering and stuttering in their attempts to build momentum while the ‘Nix flashed with constant danger.
Somehow, the hosts were able to hold out and take a point from the game but, when observed in context, it provides yet another disturbing example of the challenges being faced by the A-League heavyweights in 2019/20.
Indeed, at times, Victory’s attempts to get things going and play the ball out from the back in the face of Phoenix’s press were almost comical.
Passively knocking the ball from left to right and back again as Migjen Basha and Jakob Poulsen failed to present a clear outlet, Victory on several occasions coughed the ball up in positions that, on another occasion or against more lethal opposition, would have been punished severely.
A perfect example of this was given in the 28th minute when a haphazard pair of passes from James Donachie and Leigh Broxham put Basha under significant pressure from Jaushua Sotirio and forced the Albanian international to cough the ball up.
Breaking quickly into a three on two situation, all Sotirio had to do was slide the ball across to Davilla on his left and the ‘Nix would likely have taken the lead but, alas for the Kiwis, he instead hesitated, played the ball to David Ball on his right and Victory survived.
The moment was also indicative of the Kiwis' efforts.