Melbourne Victory 3 Wellington Phoenix 2
Scott Galloway of the Victory is tackled by Emmanuel Muscat of the Phoenix. Photo: Getty Images
They say you should never go back.
In this case Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick hardly had an option, given that his new side was taking on the club that sacked him in a game that was pregnant with possibility as it was also the senior coaching debut of his one-time captain and protege Kevin Muscat.
But in the end, the old maxim was proven once again, if only just. It was a rollercoaster Etihad Stadium homecoming for the Scotsman,who saw his side fall 3-0 behind before it fought back, Paul Ifill's excellent individual goal in the 84th minute making the scoreline 3-2, ensuring a nervous finale for the hosts.
The Victory's James Troisi makes tracks for goal. Photo: Getty Images
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Thompson (9min) , Troisi (23min, 32min)||Goals||Brockie (38min) , Ifill (85min)|
For Muscat, the former Socceroo defender and Victory legend who has replaced new Socceroo coach Ange Postecoglou, it was a salutary reminder of the eternal truth of coaching life.
No game can be taken for granted, even if it looks as though your team is coasting to victory. There were plenty who, remembering Muscat's tough tackling approach as a player, were wondering if his Victory incarnation might dispense with some of the niceties of the gamestyle inculcated by Postecoglou.
That was to misread all the signals. Muscat has made it clear in the days since his appointment that he will pick up the template Postecoglou has left and work to refine and improve it.
And his side certainly did that in an opening half-hour blitz which delivered three goals that should have put the game out of Wellington's reach.
James Troisi has left Italy and returned to Australia to relaunch his career and catch the eye of the Socceroos' boss, who now happens to be the man who signed him on a loan deal for Melbourne.
After a hesitant start, the wide man has really hit his straps in recent games and he was at the heart of many of Victory's most potent moments in the first half.
Troisi weighed in with two goals himself - the first in the 22nd minute, when he was quickest to react to a suicidal back header by Andrew Durante and fired past Glen Moss; the second in the 31st, when he calmly put away a Kosta Barbarouses through ball with a perfectly weighted chip over the All White goalkeeper's head.
Troisi has notched four goals in the last three games, and it would be no surprise if Postecoglou finds a place for him in his first Socceroos squad for the game against Costa Rica late this month.
Archie Thompson has had a frustrating season but his mood improved in the ninth minute when he opened the scoring with his first goal of the season, finishing off a move that involved Adama Traore, Troisi and Mark Milligan.
It would have been easy for the visitors to simply concentrate on damage limitation when they fell three behind, but to their credit they kept trying to make a game of it and Jeremy Brockie gave them a lifeline with a 37th-minute goal after he was put through from a well-crafted pass by former Victory favourite Carlos Hernandez. Belgian forward Stein Huysegems had the ball in the Victory net shortly after, but was offside.
Thompson suffered a similar fate in the second half as Victory pressed early for a fourth.
In the last half hour the seagulls descended and the heat went out of the match and it was meandering to a rather dull close until Ifill's late intervention. It was a game both coaches will remember - for entirely different reasons.