Victory clicks but coach wants more
Birthday boy: Marco Rojas celebrated his 21st with two goals against the Wellington Phoenix at Etihad Stadium. Photo: Getty Images
JUST as one swallow doesn't make a summer, one triumph doesn't signal a reversal of fortunes.
For those of a Melbourne Victory persuasion, Monday night's 3-2 defeat of Wellington Phoenix will provide plenty of reasons to believe in a speedy transformation of the club's fortunes - if only the team can retain its composure when in control of a match.
To say the scoreline flattered the Kiwis would be putting it mildly.
Phoenix was comprehensively outgunned for all but the last 10 minutes, when Victory held a 3-0 lead only to ship two in a nervous finale. Credit where its due to Ricki Herbert's men who kept plugging on to the end, but really, it shouldn't have come to this for a Victory side anxious to kick its season back into gear.
Victory has rarely been at a lower ebb than its record 5-0 defeat at the hands of Brisbane Roar three weeks ago. The club that until last season was coached by Victory's new boss, Ange Postecoglou.
While nobody was doubting Postecoglou's ability to remake Victory into a fluid, passing team whose style is based on patience, ball retention, ingenuity and mobility, plenty were starting to doubt his ability to do so with the players at his disposal.
Argentinian Marcos Flores, Victory's new marquee man, had had a quiet season up to this point, as had Brazilian Gui Finkler. While Flores' quality was already known - he had won the Johnny Warren Medal while starring with Adelaide United - the latter had yet to convince he could deliver.
Monday night, however, was when Finkler in particular stood up. In a superb opening 45 minutes he prodded and plotted, weaved openings in the middle of the park and orchestrated wave after wave of Victory attacks. He linked purposefully with Flores, effectively with Marco Rojas, and productively with Archie Thompson to spark panic in a leaden-footed, cumbersome Wellington whenever he had the ball at his feet.
This was a Victory unrecognisable from the side that had garnered only three points from 12 in four earlier matches. The front players seem to have developed a telepathic understanding of where each would be. Their pace, close skills and mobility left Wellington chasing shadows. It helped that the Kiwis gave them room to play and mounted a high defensive line, but the quality of the passing and movement in the final third was tremendous.
The first goal came when Finkler played through Thompson who beat Mark Paston to the ball and squared for Rojas - the New Zealand international who had started life at the Phoenix and celebrated his 21st birthday on Monday - to tap home. Precise, cutting and high quality.
The second was a thing of beauty as Finkler and Flores arrogantly played a series of wall passes in the Phoenix penalty area before the Argentinian shot home with the outside of his boot.
Victory rubbed it in early in the second half when making it three with what was by now becoming a trademark goal: Mark Milligan's through pass finding Thompson, who once again squared to give Rojas a simple finish.
Ever the perfectionist, Victory coach Postecoglou focused on the last 20 minutes of the game, when his team lost the initiative, rather than the opening 70, when it was running rampant.
''Our last half-hour was unacceptable. We have to be better than that. We work very hard on a style of play and being disciplined, and we veered away from that. We just lost our discipline,'' he said, although he did acknowledge that the first hour of the game was an indicator of where he wants to take his team.