The remainder of the A-League season is at the whim of the NSW government after Victoria’s three top-flight teams failed to make it across the border on Monday night.
John Aloisi might be receding in the memory, but it seems as if the insipid brand of football characterising his late-era Roar still looms large over Brisbane, and Melbourne Victory’s merry men took full advantage as they romped to a 5-0 win on Tuesday night.
It wasn’t entirely unexpected – Victory are title contenders and the Roar are kept out of last place by only the well-documented travails of the Mariners. They knew Victory were good, but they didn’t expect something quite as ruthless as this.
Melbourne went in weakened. Keisuke Honda remains sidelined. Georg Niedermeier and Nick Ansell likewise. Raul Baena was fit enough only for a spot on the bench. The fact that what amounted to a second-string side tore Brisbane apart with ease should send an ominous message to the likes of Sydney FC and Perth.
Not so long ago there were doubts and dark clouds aplenty. Leroy George had walked out in a huff. Besart Berisha, for so long the side’s lynchpin, moved on to Japan. There have also been the midseason losses of Mark Milligan and Jason Geria, albeit for significant compensation.
Kosta Barbarouses, Melbourne’s tormentor-in-chief, hadn’t scored until Round 8, when Honda let him take a penalty to boost his confidence. Against Brisbane he helped himself to three in a 90-minute masterclass in finishing. Warming up with a penalty in the 48th minute, he repeated the trick in the 72nd, receiving the ball after a good run from James Troisi. Opening up his body, he curled a pinpoint finish into the corner of the net. Jamie Young watched on, helpless.
The result was hailed as the biggest Victory win over Brisbane in their history, but it wasn’t only the substance; it was also the style. Jorge Valdano once said that when the Selecao attacked, it was with a herd instinct, a one-man stampede. This was smoother, more graceful, more continuous and genuinely exhilarating.
It wasn’t so much that Brisbane was bad, it was the Victory was good. All match long they played without getting out of second gear, like a Ferrari being throttled, but they finished with two youngsters on the pitch. Elvis Kamsoba in the 73rd minute, Anthony Lesiotis in the 81st – not to mention 18-year-old Rahmat Akbari, who started the match.
The cheers from the away end that hailed the whistle told its own story. “Be afraid”, they were telling every team, from Perth to the Mariners. “Be very afraid.”