‘Melbourne Victory was back today’ – Popovic buzzing after derby performance

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Following a match which more than delivered on entertainment value, Melbourne Victory head coach Tony Popovic heaped praise on his side for their performance.

Popovic has been refreshingly realistic throughout the season, acknowledging the challenge before him to rebuild Victory into a powerhouse of the A-League Men’s competition.

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Considering the circumstances, Popovic could hardly hide his satisfaction with how his team performed on Saturday night in a 2-2 draw, particularly in the context of their season.

“Overall, it’s a good point,” he said.

“We’re showing an amazing attitude and resilience as we grow as a team.”

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Victory’s coach was quick to compare his sides performance to that of last year in highlighting the progress that had occurred in a short period of time.

“Last year, this match wasn’t really a contest. We made it a contest today,” he said.

“We brought the passion back. Melbourne Victory was back today.”

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Such an optimistic outlook stemmed from what Popovic perceived to be several signs of improvement from his team, even though they didn’t come away with all three points.

“The reaction after conceding twice was the most pleasing thing,” Popovic said.

“We’ll gain confidence from the performance and the way we stuck in there even when we were behind.

“This team can and will get better.”

As well as praising his team as a whole, Victory’s coach was happy to credit Jake Brimmer individually for creating the game’s opening goal.

“That’s just Jakey with his instinct and maturity,” Popovic said.

“He did that on his own; I don’t want to take any credit for it.”

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Undoubtedly the organisation and spirit of Popovic’s Victory team are qualities which have been largely unsighted in recent seasons for the Melbourne club.

After looking relatively comfortable for much of the first hour and carrying a 1-0 lead, City struck twice in quick succession to turn the match on its head.

The lesser Melbourne Victory teams of recent seasons would likely have wilted under such pressure and in the intense derby environment.

“It was a real derby,” Popovic said.

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Despite the circumstances, Victory found the resolve to drag themselves back into the contest following the drastic momentum and scoreline swing.

As such, Popovic’s post-match positivity is an understandable response.

Of course, he is equally keen to see his team continue to grow and develop. The improving fitness of Chris Ikonomidis, return from injury of Brendan Hamill and return from suspension of Jason Davidson all give Victory fans further reason to believe the best is yet to come from their team.

Melbourne City coach Patrick Kisnorbo was less willing to attribute the derby atmosphere to how the game played out but acknowledged the back-and-forth nature of the contest.

“Two teams really went for it today,” he said.

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Victory are a team growing in confidence and stature. Following a dismal last season, Popovic seems to have restored the feel-good factor at the club with his side’s improved performances.

Established forces in the A-League Men’s competition such as Kisnorbo’s City will be well aware that this season’s Victory offers an entirely different challenge to that of last season.

Saturday night’s derby made that fact clearer than ever.

Feature Image Credit: Ngau Kai Yan

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Oscar Rutherford
Oscar Rutherford
Sports tragic studying Law/Arts at Monash University. Second-best paid Oscar working in football who has been to China.

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