Anticipation was high ahead of kick off for Season 10, but what was to come next was not expected. Other than holding Wanderers scoreless, Victory fans could not have asked for a better result to open their A-League campaign.
For Victory, the result meant they had achieved their first win in the opening round for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
Not only that, but Victory notched up the largest winning margin and most amount of goals in an opening round match.
To further rub salt into the wound of Wanderers, Victory inflicted them with their largest defeat and first time for conceding four goals in a match – extremely un-wanderer like.
Melbourne came out intent on hitting the ground running, and that’s exactly what they did. New recruits Matthieu Delpierre and Besart Berisha got off the mark early in their club debuts, scoring in emphatic fashion to send the Victory fans into a frenzy.
Within the space of 19 minutes, Victory were up 2-0 and the Wanderers’ mastercoach, Tony Popovic, appeared clueless as to what his side could do to turn the match around.
The momentum continued as the twinkling toes of Kosta Barbarouses proved decisive in creating the chance for Leigh Broxham to strike home what would be only his third goal in 156 appearances for the club, putting Victory up 3-0.
As the first half drew to a close, the all-round A-League veteran, Mark Bridge, pounced on a mistake made by Matthieu Delpierre. As the centre back rushed out to head the ball away, a passage opened for Bridge to waltz straight on through and score with ease past Nathan Coe.
But what’s an A-League match without refereeing controversy?
When Victory were leading 1-0 early in the half, a wayward challenge from Delpierre brought down Brendon Santalab in the box. A clear penalty in the eyes of most, but not the ones that counted. It was quite possibly a match changer.
For Victory, this appeared to be their only hiccup of the night, as they went on to score another in the second half through none other than club stalwart Archie Thompson.
The Wanderers were able to wrestle back some momentum throughout the second half, partly thanks to two half-time substitutions made by Popovic to take off Kwabena Appiah for Jason Trifiro and Iacopo La Rocca for Victor Saba. Ultimately, it wouldn’t be enough to stop Victory from finishing 4-1 winners.
While it’s easy to get carried away for both sets of fans, a kind reminder that it is only Round 1 is necessary and both coaches seemed more than aware this was only the start.
For Kevin Muscat and his men, the performance was one that should send a wake-up call to all teams, that unless you’re prepared to play for the premiership you had better be prepared for many more performances like Friday night.
For Tony Popovic and his team, they’ll realise that for a team that prides itself on performance, a result like this is unacceptable. With the Asian Champions League final around the corner, the boys from Western Sydney will need to remain focused and switch on. It could prove the difference between a long season or an enjoyable one.