Go on, admit it. You loved everything about the Melbourne Victory’s win over Brisbane Roar on Sunday afternoon at AAMI Park, didn’t you?
Of course you did. It had everything the home fans and the league owners wanted; glorious sunshine, a decent crowd and the best supported domestic football team in Australia playing in a style we have not seen for some time.
Not since 2018-19 has the Victory been anywhere near the fringes of contention and as fan and member support has waned, the damage such a situation was doing to the A-League Men’s as a whole became clear.
As another coach was shuffled out the door after the embarrassing season just passed, it did appear the club had finally reached a line in the sand moment.
In short, things had to get better very quickly, as patience in the terraces was wearing thin. The board did indeed have an ace up their sleeve and they played it soon after, with the signing of Tony Popovic, back in Australia after his recent time abroad; time that had once again left him somewhat unfulfilled.
Just last week, I wrote how it took the inaugural Western Sydney Wanderers and short-term Perth Glory manager just a match to show his credentials and prove that he had lost nothing.
The 48-year-old took things up a notch further with the weekend’s dismantling of Warren Moon’s Roar, yet the success achieved wherever he has ventured in A-League Men’s circles makes this incarnation of it at Victory no surprise at all.
After a comfortable 3-0 win over a Brisbane side appearing sick to death of flying in and out of cities within a matter of hours and attempting to play a game of football somewhere in between, what was most compelling was the general feeling of excitement that the Victory’s start to the season has created and the pleasure most are taking in seeing them back.
It was the most feel good of games, where the Victory fans found their voice, Marco Rojas found his Melbourne mojo again and new signings Jason Davidson, Josh Brillante and Nick D’Agostino displayed exactly why they have been brought to the club.
Heck, even Leigh Broxham, a guy about whom all I heard from Victory fans last season was that he was washed up at 33, a step behind and no longer worthy of a spot in the starting 11 after over 400 games in all competitions.
Pfft, I thought Broxham looked precise, efficient and still such a valuable player on Sunday. It is always funny what playing in a competitive side does for veterans. It is so easy to write them off when the team is struggling and dismiss years of experience that can often easily make up for a lost metre of pace.
Brisbane were not rubbish, had plenty of ball and at least one chance that should have been converted, yet it was Victory who took the chances they created more decisively and held shape at the back far better than the visitors.
Not only were fans right across the league celebrating what appears to be the early moments of a glorious return for Victoria’s most successful A-League Men’s team, they were also cock-a-hoop watching Sydney FC players and staff pulling their hair out during their upset loss to the Bulls on Saturday night.
It was far from a memorable derby, yet with 64 per cent of possession and a swathe of clear chances to pull back the deficit created by Lachlan Rose’s 17th minute goal for Macarthur FC, everything the Sky Blues tried came to nought.
Subsequently, they once again ended the night with nothing to show for all their endeavour, after doing the same a week earlier in their season opener against the Wanderers.
As I covered the game for The Roar live, my phone just kept pinging away beside me. Later, I discovered that the messages were almost exclusively from fans desperately hoping for the Bulls to hang on to what always felt a slender lead.
Just as the nation appears unified in celebrating the return of Melbourne Victory, so too it seemed as one in cheering on a side hoping to send Sydney FC to somewhere near the bottom of the ladder after two weeks of action.
As things stand, Popovic’s men sit atop the table, the only team with two wins from two to start the new season and Sydney FC occupies 11th, clear only of a Brisbane side who were robbed of a point in the opening week.
Of course, it is likely Sydney will bounce back at some time in the near future and who knows how sustainable the form of Victory is. But at the time of writing, the southerners look mighty impressive and Steve Corica’s team are yet to manage a goal in 2021-22.
This is just what the competition needed.