Socceroos forward Andrew Nabbout has returned to Melbourne Victory older, wiser and with the tools to complete some unfinished business with the A-League giants.
Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat says his side have laid a strong initial platform for their A-League title defence, following their one-sided 6-0 FFA Cup win over the Balmain Tigers.
Despite missing several key personnel including Carl Valeri and Archie Thompson, the Victory played with confidence and fluidity on Tuesday as six different goalscorers got on the scoresheet in front of a lively 5000 crowd at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney.
“It was a good start for us in terms of setting a standard and a platform that we can improve on,” said Muscat.
“We are taking the cup competition very seriously, and it was good to get that result.”
In their first competitive match of the new campaign the A-League champions scored at either end of the first half, before running rampant in the second half against the part-timers from Sydney’s third tier competition.
Muscat said he has been encouraged by the attitude of his players since pre-season training resumed in mid-July.
“What happened last year hasn’t been mentioned,” said Muscat. “The physical condition of the players when they got back was very pleasing, but what was more impressive was the mental attitude.
“This match was the start of building and improving upon what we have already created, and the standard has been set fairly high tonight.
“We are clear in our mind, we must improve on last year’s performances to give ourselves a chance.”
Things were less pleasing for ambitious cross-town rivals Melbourne City who needed two moments of magic from star midfielder Aaron Mooy to avoid falling victim to an infamous giant-killing in Newcastle.
Mooy fired home a spectacular free-kick deep into injury time for the match-winner, having already drawn his side level in the first half after local side Edgeworth Eagles had claimed an unlikely lead.
“We didn’t finish the openings that we had, and it was a nervous game for us,” said City coach John van’t Schip.
“This was always going to be a difficult match for us. The main thing was going through which we have done, so now is it a case of looking to get more players fit and available for the next round.”
Another major upset loomed in western Sydney but South Hobart were unable to hold onto a 2-0 lead at Sydney United, and the former National Soccer League powerhouse eventually prevailed on penalties with the two sides still level at 3-3 after extra time.
The final match of the night saw Michael Gaitatzis score the only goal seven minutes from fulltime to lift Sydney Olympic past Gungahlin United in Canberra where temperatures hovered just above zero.
The Round of 32 will continue on Wednesday evening headlined by the first ever appearance of a Northern Territory representative in the FFA Cup. Darwin Olympic will host Adelaide United, while fellow A-League side Sydney FC make the long trip to Perth for a match-up with Sorrento.