Why Melbourne Victory are peaking at the right time

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Make no mistake, Melbourne Victory have dug themselves out of a hole to clinch a grand final spot against Newcastle Jets at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.

An uncharacteristically poor run of games that stretched over the first two months of the season had many wondering whether Victory could recapture their best which saw them make the grand final of last campaign.

It feels like ages ago, but they were once in a mini-crisis with a growing amount of supporters frustrated and the future of head coach Kevin Muscat the subject of much debate. Disjointed attacks and a lack of creativity were plaguing the Victory for a significant amount of the campaign, but you couldn’t say this is the case currently as Victory aim to spoil the Jets party in this season’s grand final.

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Victory struggled to get the three points in big matches against fellow challengers Sydney FC and Melbourne City, but the battle to clinch a first win was made even more challenging when key personnel departed for international duty.

Kosta Barbarouses, James Troisi and former midfielder Mark Milligan left considerable shoes to fill which contributed to Victory’s four draws in a row before they got off the mark with a 2-1 win against Perth Glory in round 7. However, their revival was short lived by a 4-1 defeat from Newcastle.

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Victory’s record at Etihad Stadium was awful with three losses and two draws, but once they got out of playing home games at that venue they finally hit their mojo. In hindsight they’ll be desperate to atone for a winless five matches at Docklands this season.

From round 11 onwards, only the Sky Blues and Brisbane Roar came away with the three points against Victory at AAMI Park. The big names were consistent including Leroy George and Rhys Williams, but when setbacks came back into vogue opportunities were taken.

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Christian Theoharous and Kenny Athiu showed tremendous signs with the more game time and mid-season departures of Mark Milligan and Jason Geria allowed Terry Antonis and Thomas Deng to make the central midfield and right back positions their own respectively. Even Matt Action deputised well as an adequate second-choice keeper if required.

A much-improved second half of the season has held Victory in good stead and we’ve seen what this group can do, as the possibility of another championship crown beckons.

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Liam Watson
Intern for Melbourne Victory and Media and Communications student at La Trobe University.