Why Victory fans should take this defeat in stride

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Put contentious refereeing, Riley McGree’s winner, the fiery tension of the derby aside and have a think about Melbourne Victory’s performance. They lost, but they knew they were the better team.

They were good, outstanding in fact, to put it in Kevin Muscat’s words.

For most parts, Victory looked the more dominant side. They dictated the game’s tempo, played free-flowing attacking football, and bar that momentarily lapse in defence, were airtight at the back.

Chances were aplenty for the new-look Victory side who attempted 17 shots at goal, against City’s eight. City’s Eugene Galekovic was called upon time and time again, as he made six saves, some already deemed worthy for a wonder save montage. Not forgetting James Troisi’s clattering effort against the woodwork.

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The international trio that were handed their A-League debuts by Kevin Muscat proved their worth in commendable performances. Georg Niedermeier put his physical prowess to good use and looked tenacious in all of his challenges. More than just the rare bag of tricks, Raul Baena dictated play in his defensive midfield role and showed his passing range when he connected some lovely balls to his colleagues further up the field.

Keisuke Honda… where do we start. Muscat’s decision to deploy and pair him deeper in the park with Terry Antonis saw him in the thick of the action. The Japanese held the highest rate (at 100%) for successful tackles at 4/4 (tied with Baena), and led the charts for the highest number of interceptions, at five. Responsible for more than half of his team’s crosses, the 32-year old created four chances, the highest across both camps. And a goal to top it all off.

Muscat was effusive with his praise for Honda in the post match press conference.

“He’s outstanding… he stays on his feet, he’s not trying to milk fouls, I thought that he was very influential on the game,” said Muscat.

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The headlines of the first Melbourne Derby in the 2018/19 A-League season might not be about him, but fans should be assured that if Honda can maintain his performance against one of the strongest sides in the league, he’ll be in the limelight once more.

While the undisputed striker role belongs to Ola Toivonen (still recuperating), Kenny Athiu showed glimpses of brilliance today, using his pace and strength to penetrate the City backline. Fresh out of his first complete pre-season with Victory in more than two years, a much needed breakout season for Kenny could spell wonders for the squad.

Muscat’s new-look side unfortunately failed to deliver, but showed promise on all fronts.

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Ngau Kai Yan
Ngau Kai Yanhttp://ngaukaiyan.com
Journalism undergrad at Monash University, Kai is a multimedia journalist covering Melbourne Victory. Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund. Once "stole" Shinji Kagawa's plane ticket.

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