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Victory struggles with new game plan

ANGE Postecoglou is not the sort to be thrown out of his stride by an initial setback, so the new Melbourne Victory coach will learn plenty from his side's loss to Melbourne Heart - chiefly that the fluent, pacy, precise passing game he implemented at Brisbane Roar will not be easily transferred to his new charges.

Few A-League identities do dark brooding as well as the Victory coach, who is not afraid to let the world know that he is unhappy if what he has witnessed is not what he expected.

Postecoglou was not exactly unhappy. Incandescent might have been a better word to describe his reaction to his team's 2-1 loss to Melbourne Heart on Friday night.

A crowd of 42,000 turned up at Etihad Stadium, the bulk favouring the navy blues, and it's fair to say they, like their coach, would not have been impressed with what they saw.

That's not to take anything away from Melbourne Heart and its rookie boss John Aloisi, who won the tactical battle against one of the domestic game's most successful coaches, although Postecoglou could claim his side never really gave itself much chance because the execution of his game plan was so flawed.

Heart got in their faces, pressed hard, and did not let Victory relax and play out from the rear, which is the hallmark of the Postecoglou style.


For Aloisi it was a night to remember, claiming such a big scalp in his first game in charge. Still, as one of the country's most decorated players, he has been around a long time and knows too much should not be read into one result, especially the opening game against a side struggling to remake itself.

Plenty have written off Heart's chances this season before a ball was kicked, but the team showed it has the ticker, commitment and, especially if a reinvigorated David Williams can build on his strong start, the pace and ability in wide areas (Mate Dugandzic offers similar qualities on the right) to threaten any defence in this league, never mind one as nervous as Victory's.

Postecoglou's mantra has been the passing game, and it is an article of faith for the new coach that his team must monopolise possession and build with patience and precision.

Postecoglou took more than half a season to implement the change when he took over Brisbane, but the Victory faithful, while offering plenty of goodwill, will want to see more fluency and less nervousness when in possession at the back sooner rather than later.

It cost them several times when Heart's pressure forced errors and turnovers, which put the nervous back line under pressure and dragged the two holding midfielders deep to offer assistance.

Heart was good enough to take advantage of only two of the myriad chances it created. Had its forwards got their shooting boots on the margin would have been much greater, so in one regard Postecoglou's team can count its blessings.

For Heart this win was the confidence booster it has never had at the start of the season. So it will look to next Sunday's meeting with Wellington as a chance to exploit the win over its biggest rival by signing new members.

Postecoglou has shown over a lengthy coaching career, in which he has won titles in the NSL with South Melbourne and in the A-League with Brisbane Roar, that he will, given time, get it right.

Given the effort Victory made to woo him from Queensland it's fair to say he will be given time by the board.

He made it clear in the wake of this first loss that he did not regard this season as a building block to better things.

''It's not a rebuilding year. We needed to be ready, we should've been ready and the fact we performed like that suggests we didn't prepare ourselves in the proper manner. I reckon I've done something wrong in that build-up for us to perform like that and that's for me to give myself a whack around the head.''

As starts to the season go, it was a cracker - and Heart, rightfully, has bragging rights in this city, at least until they next meet.