Melbourne Victory suffered the worst defeat in their history when they lost 6-1 to Sydney FC last May – but was the game just a defeat or a stain on the club that will remain over the next season?
Every A-League fan knows about the Big-Blue. Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory have been the two most successful teams in the A-League’s 14-year history, and when the two teams face they never disappoint. But the most surprising part of Melbourne Victory’s season was not the signing of Keisuke Honda or their lack of consistency; it was it ending in a 6-1 loss.
Melbourne Victory was cruising. They had a great game in the elimination final, prevailing 3-1 against Wellington Phoenix in a match that didn’t seem to get them out of second gear. Kevin Muscat then rested almost all of his players, and they seemed perfectly ready for the biggest game of their season so far.
But from the moment they walked onto the pitch something looked off. There seemed to be a lack of confidence in the side, something that is unusual in a Melbourne Victory team, especially with Muscat as coach.
But what caused this? Was it the lack of interaction with the head coach due to the Asian Champions League? Or was it something that he said before the game? Did he go too hard in his team talk? No matter what it was, it seemed to affect them massively.
It was obvious from the second minute. A team who hadn’t conceded a goal all year from a corner conceded one of the worst ones in the A-League all season. The ball came in from the right boot of Brandon O’Neil and was lofted up towards Lawrence Thomas. It appeared to be an easy catch for the on-form Victory goalkeeper, but the pressure of big centre-back Aaron Calver was enough to put him off guard.
This was unusual, as usually Thomas is so commanding in his penalty area. It was the first sign of something maybe being wrong.
Next came the most stable and the close part of the game, with both teams contesting in a very close battle, both teams having equal chances, but nothing of note until the 43rd minute, when Alex Brosque’s screaming volley found the bottom left corner of Lawrence Thomas’s goal.
Then the goals started flowing in.
Leigh Broxham scored an own goal two minutes into injury time from Siem de Jong’s delightful cross. Adam le Fondre was taken down in the penalty box in the 61st minute before smashing the penalty home in trademark Alfie style.
Le Fondre added another goal to his tally in the 608th minute before Milos Ninkovic closed the game with a composed finish in the 88th minute.
But the 73rd minute showed what would be the most unusual part of the game. It wasn’t a dodgy VAR call or an open goal miss; it was the substitution Kevin Muscat made.
His team had gone attacking to try and reduce the deficit, but being down 5-0, he brought off exciting winger Elvis Kamsoba for right-back Storm Roux.
That was when the mood changed in the stadium. It was a moment of triumph for Sydney FC fans but a moment of despair for Melbourne Victory fans. Why? Because after 14 years of coaching and playing for Melbourne Victory, he finally gave up.
For a manager known for believing in his team no matter what, this was massive news for all of the A-League. He has certainly brought on a defender for an attacker before, but never have they been losing while it has happened. And to make it worse, they were down 5-0 against their biggest rivals when it finally happened.
It therefore didn’t come as a big surprise when Kevin Muscat announced his resignation a few days later.
But what kind of stain has Melbourne Victory’s loss caused for the season ahead? They have already lost key players Kosta Barbarouses and Keisuke Honda along with club captain Carl Valeri, imports Raul Baena and Georg Niedermeier. So too has New Zealander Jai Ingham departed. As well as losing their head coach, things aren’t looking too good for Victory.
But recent signings of Marco Kurz as new head coach and Jay Barnett as a scholarship shows that things could be looking up for Victory. But they need replacements for the amazing quality of players who have left and they need them fast. But are people not going due to Melbourne Victory’s new reputation, or is it just a coincidence?
It begs the question: has Melbourne Victory’s 6-1 loss against Sydney FC caused bigger problems than the scoreline suggested?