Popovic’s winning era at AAMI Park has begun with the FFA Cup

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Melbourne Victory kickstarted their winning resurgence by raising the FFA Cup but head coach Tony Popovic does not want to look too far ahead as they focus on one match at a time following two torrid years for the club.

Hardly anything could separate the Victory and the Central Coast Mariners for the vast majority of the match on Saturday night. It took a world-class free kick, worthy of a Cup final, from Jason Davidson in the 70th minute to put Melbourne’s noses in front.

While the Mariners managed to find a consolation goal after falling down 2-0 deep into stoppage time, it proved too little too late to claim their first silverware since 2013.

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Victory are finally reaping the rewards from transforming their coaching staff and squad 10 months ago.

In the post-match press conference, Popovic was overwhelmed by his team’s accomplishment, admitting that the moment “hadn’t really sunk in”.

“It helps when you’ve got the kind of supporters we’ve got, and I’m lucky to have a wonderful group of players who performed on the big stage tonight,” he said.

The focus of the press conference was justifiably on the achievements of the match, with Popovic remarking that “tonight was about the Cup”. But, given the circumstances surrounding what has been a dramatic resurgence, one was left to wonder what this squad might truly be capable of.

With an FFA Cup under their belt, to go along with third position on the A-League Men’s ladder – despite having played between two to three fewer games than the rest of the top four – it seems almost beyond doubt that a few extra pieces of silverware are on the horizon.

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Popovic acknowledged that the win comes in a broader context of wanting to reinstate the winning culture that Victory fans had become accustomed to.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said.

“This club is used to winning trophies, to competing for honours constantly, and the expectations have always been high. Today we had an opportunity to win something and we took it.”

One of the core components of Victory’s revitalisation has been their group of young, up-and-coming stars, and arguably chief among them has been Jake Brimmer.

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The newly-minted co-winner of the Mark Viduka Medal has been a consistent presence and force in the midfield and final third for his club. One would expect him to continue to get better.

“It’s going to bring a lot of confidence to me as an individual player, but at the end of the day I owe this medal to the other 10 boys out on the field with me,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have been able to play the way I did without them, and as much as I’m thankful for this award I still believe I’ve got more to give.”

The selflessness and collective buy-in that Popovic has gotten from his group was underscored by the pivotal moment of the match.

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Brimmer is the side’s free-kick specialist and yet he made way for Davidson to take what would end up being an iconic kick in Victory history. Asked about this decision after the match, he said that he wanted his teammate to take the kick from the get-go.

“We were both standing there, and I reminded him of my previous kick where the keeper took a step to the right,” Brimmer said.

“I said to Davo ‘if you’re gonna take this, go left’, and funnily enough he went left and gave the keeper no chance.”

A brilliant moment that the club and its dedicated fanbase hope will be emblematic of the coming off a new era.

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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