The past two weeks for the Melbourne Victory have had fans guessing every move.
After a disaster-filled performance against the Central Coast Mariners, losing 3-2, many fans like myself voiced their concern, demanding some January signings. But there was still cause for optimism.
Star striker Ola Toivonen didn’t take part in that fixture and the prior two performances against the Newcastle Jets and Melbourne City were inspiring.
What followed was something completely and utterly unprecedented and unexpected.
Under-pressure coach Marco Kurz was sacked after half a season. Marco Rojas was recruited. Kristijan Dobras and unlucky left back Corey Brown received mutual terminations and it seemed to be onwards and upwards for the Melbourne Victory.
A classy announcement video followed for the Kiwi Messi, and excitement flowed through the veins of every Melbourne Victory supporter despite the 1-0 loss to Adelaide. However, A-League form continued to worsen as the side lost to Sydney FC at home. To put the nail in the coffin, saviour turned snake Kosta Barbarouses netted a goal in the 53rd minute.
The worst season in Victory history, they said. New interim head coach Carlos Salvachua promised attacking football.
However, it’s great to see Victory do well in Asia for once. This time with no Keisuke Honda, the Victory annihilated Bali United 5-0 at home last week with absolute screamers from Toivonen and holding midfielder Migjen Basha.
The 1-0 win at Kashima was the ultimate turning point for the Melbourne Victory.
Last week, some sources close to the Melbourne Victory told me that Thomas Deng was unsure if he would re-sign with the club. Sure enough, a couple of days after returning from the triumphant Olympic qualification campaign, the young centre back left Melbourne for Andrew Nabbout’s former club Urawa Red Diamonds in the J. League.
To the dismay of the Victory faithful, this was to be expected. You cannot expect the players to be happy if the environment a coach sets is entrenched in poor performance and a lack of atmosphere. The Victory finally cashed in on Thomas Deng and are now searching for a replacement as the window closes in a couple of days. Matthew Spiranovic, anyone?
A six-hour delay to Japan followed that pitiful performance against Sydney FC. After minimal training, the Victory faced their final hurdle to get into the Asian Champions League group stage. That hurdle was the 2018 AFC Champions League champions and Japanese giants Kashima Antlers.
A gutsy performance including a screamer by Nabbout in the second half saw the first sense of life in this Victory side.
Players jumped for joy and hugged each other and it really feels like a good time to be a Victory fan. With gigantic fixtures against the Perth Glory on Saturday and a fiesty Melbourne derby the following week, the new coach and the Victory boys will turn it around.
There is something going on in Melbourne and I cannot wait to see the future of this side in Asia and the domestic league.
What will ensue in the next couple days? Who knows. It’s been a perilous and excitement-filled couple of weeks.