Young guns lead the way as Victory book their place in FFA Cup final

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Down a goal heading into the second half, a stroke of genius from captain Josh Brillante set the stage for Melbourne Victory as they rallied to beat Wellington Phoenix 4-1 in their FFA Cup semi-final on Saturday.

Victory coach Tony Popovic seemed incredibly pleased with his side’s overall performance and composure under pressure.

“Obviously it’s a semi-final and you expect tough competition, but I think we performed very well,” he said.

“To score four goals in the end was very pleasing.”

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What would be especially pleasing for Victory fans is that the win came off the back of some excellent performances from the younger players in the group.

Nick D’Agostino, who has become a fan-favourite with his nickname “Daggers,” scored twice, once to put his side in the lead and the other to finish the game off.

In seven appearances with the club, he’s now scored more goals (five) than he did in four seasons and 35 appearances with Brisbane Roar.

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Currently coming on as a substitute behind Francesco Margiotta, Marco Rojas and Ben Folami, one would think the 23-year-old is strongly pushing for a starting position given his productiveness in front of goal.

“We’re very happy with his performance, all the guys we’ve had come off the bench have made an impact,” Popovic said.

“Nick was excellent, he did what strikers do and came on and scored a couple of great goals.”

The aforementioned Folami also found himself on the scoresheet after an excellent solo goal, with Popovic full of praise as the youngster has strung two quality matches together.

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“The boy keeps backing up and turning in good performances, we want that consistency,” the coach said.

“First half he probably didn’t quite have the zip that we’re accustomed to, but what’s most satisfying for us is him turning it around in the second half and finding the back of the net.

“He’s a young player that’s going to have ups and downs, but we’re really happy with what he’s shown us so far.”

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In spite of the exceptional individual performances, Popovic is maintaining his emphasis on building a cohesive and consistent squad of players.

“I’ve maintained it from the start that every player’s important, and I know the players feel that,” he said.

“They’re all working extremely hard at training and they all want to play.”

Popovic’s trust in his depth was on display in this match, as he made three substitutions immediately after Brillante’s equaliser.

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“There is certainly competition for places, but whatever role they’re given by us, they fulfil and they do it to the best of their abilities,” he said.

The club will now face Central Coast Mariners in their first FFA Cup final since 2015, with Popovic hoping to join Kevin Muscat as the two coaches to bring the cup to AAMI Park.

Feature Image Credit: Ngau Kai Yan

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Mitchell Turner
Third Year Undergraduate Arts Student at Monash University (Journalism Major). Generic sports tragic living out my failed dreams of going pro vicariously through other people.

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