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Melbourne Victory 2 Perth Glory 0
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Nichols a perfect fit in victory over Perth

There are soccer players who look like athletes, who run, chase and look busy all the time.

Melbourne Victory had plenty of those on the ground at AAMI Park on Friday night, and they did enough to give the navy blues a 2-0 win over Perth Glory, a result that lifts Kevin Muscat's side up to third on the A-League table.

And then there are players like Mitch Nichols, who can boss a game, set up chances, create opportunities and dictate the rhythm of his team's flow - yet not always convince everyone of his ability because he doesn't look like an ''athlete''.

That's not to to say Melbourne Victory's Queensland import is not fit: no one could play at the highest level of the domestic game, and be the team's fulcrum, if he wasn't fit and in top shape.

But appearances dictate what people think, and so often Nichols, whose gait sometimes seems ungainly, does not always get the credit he deserves.

Fortunately the people that matter - Ange Postecoglou, who coached him at Brisbane and then brought him to Melbourne, and Muscat, who is now his boss - know the reality, that Nichols is a fine player with a terrific skill set who has developed a strong work ethic as he is maturing.


Now 24, he has been a key figure for Victory all season. While his teammates like James Troisi are poaching goals, and Mark Milligan is earning plaudits for his role with the Socceroos, Nichols is quietly getting on with his job.

In this game, he was at the heart of many of Victory's best moves. Three times in the first half, when the match was meandering as Perth dropped deep and tried to slow the game down and stifle Melbourne, Nichols singlehandedly sought to break the deadlock.

Twice he was denied by Glory goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, another time he shot wide.

But the tall, deceptively powerful midfielder kept at it, trying to find space, occasionally beating players or threading passes to wide men Connor Pain and Kosta Barbarouses.

It was fitting that he also had an involvement in the crucial first goal that broke the game open, delivering the final pass to Victory full-back Adama Traore, whose fierce left foot shot from the edge of the penalty area flew past Vukovic in the 36th minute.

If ever a game needed a goal it was this one. Nichols' efforts aside and a Victory penalty shout when Barbarouses, who made the most of the contact, went down under a Jamie Maclaren challenge, there hadn't been a lot to get excited about.

Perth had, to that point, done what it set out to do, which was frustrate Victory and keep a clean sheet. Glory coach Alastair Edwards had left out captain Jacob Burns - just the sort of player one would have thought essential for a war of attrition - and fielded a young side long on enthusiasm and commitment but short on experience.

Once Perth fell behind the equation changed for both sides: Victory began to get more space in the Glory half and the visitors had to show more enterprise.

Pablo Contreras has come in for plenty of criticism this season for not quite bringing what was expected of a player with his pedigree.

But he went some way to winning back the doubters in the 56th minute with an excellently timed challenge to deny Maclaren as he bore down on the Victory goal.

Postecoglou may have departed six weeks ago, but Muscat is continuing to work from the Socceroo boss' template; Victory retains its tendency to keep the ball and sometimes over-elaborate in its attempt to create a clear-cut opening before making an attempt on goal.

So it was that cries of ''shoot'' rose up often from frustrated supporters as the navy blues took control but couldn't quite kill the game off.

A Barbarouses shot was saved by Vukovic, and then Troisi had a good opportunity only to blaze over. The latter then set up the former when he pulled the ball back from the byline, but Barbarouses' 68th-minute shot lacked the power to really trouble Vukovic.

Nathan Coe had largely been a spectator through much of this game, but the Victory goalkeeper had to keep his concentration and got down well to beat away a low shot from Ryo Nagai as Perth threw off the shackles in the final quarter. The coach's son, Ryan Edwards, blasted a glorious chance to equalise over the bar and then Maclaren's volley looked goal-bound until Coe tipped it over with a flying save.

Victory finally made the points secure in the 89th minute when substitute Gui Finkler scored: it was nothing less than the host deserved as it went some way to wiping away the memory of that disappointing loss to Newcastle last Sunday.