Muscat’s men kick off season with comfortable win

By Agron Dauti
Hyundai A-League Season 10 – 2014/15 – Round 1
7:40 pm, Friday 10 October 2014 – Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

 Melbourne Victory FC 4
(M. Delpierre 8‘, B. Berisha 19’ (pen), L. Broxham 28’, A. Thompson 54’)
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1
(M. Bridge 41′)

Melbourne Victory defeated Western Sydney Wanderers 4-1 in front of a lively crowd at Etihad Stadium on Friday night to kick off the 2014/15 Hyundai A-League season.

Many expected the clash to be tightly contested but the Victory’s intensity and efficiency proved to be the difference in the end as Melbourne cruised home to hand Western Sydney the worst defeat in it’s A-League history.

Offseason signings Matthieu Delpierre and Besart Berisha scored on their competitive debuts for Melbourne while Leigh Broxham and Archie Thompson also got onto the scoresheet during the comprehensive win.

The Victory did not have to wait long to open up the scoring, with French defender Delpierre grabbing Melbourne’s opener after just eight minutes with a brilliant volley from a well-worked Gui Finkler free-kick.

The visiting Wanderers contingent would have felt hard done by when calls for a penalty went unanswered after Brendon Santalab was brought down in the box in the 11th minute — a penalty would soon be awarded at the other end, however.

Referee Jarred Gillett pointed to the spot after a handball in the box by Antony Golec. Marquee man Besart Berisha wasted no time in getting his maiden Victory goal — converting the spot-kick to make it 2-0 in the 19th minute.

The visitors uncharacteristically lacked intensity throughout the first half and were punished for poor defending in the 28th minute when Melbourne Victory skipper Leigh Broxham extended his side’s lead. Attacker Kosta Barbarouses danced around in the box and shot but his effort was parried, falling into Broxham’s path and then into the back of the net.

Poor marking allowed Western Sydney to grab an unlikely goal in the 41st minute after a lobbed through ball from Labinot Haliti fell beautifully for Wanderers skipper Mark Bridge, who slotted the ball past Nathan Coe to make it 3-1 and round out an exciting first half.

Tony Popovic’s men had their work cut out for them but came close to nabbing a second just after kick-off when Brendon Santalab shot straight at Nathan Coe but hopes of a Wanderers comeback were soon halted as Victory stalwart Archie Thompson grabbed Melbourne’s fourth in the 54th minute — finishing coolly from a Berisha assist.

It was Santalab who once more gave an underperforming Wanderers side hope but his low shot in the 65th minute was kept out of goal by some classy goalkeeping from Coe.

A testament to the Victory’s desire to win it all this season, the boys in navy blue tried to increase the deficit right up until the final whistle as Broxham almost scored his second goal in the 91st minute — a deflection denying the Victory captain.

The win gives Melbourne its first points of the season and will give Kevin Muscat’s players confidence heading into next week’s clash with Adelaide United — away at Adelaide Oval with kick-off scheduled for 7:40 pm on Friday night.

Match Stats:

Crowd: 30 083

Melbourne Victory FC
1. Nathan Coe (gk) 2. Jason Geria 6. Leigh Broxham (Captain) 7. Gui Finkler 8. Besart Berisha 9. Kosta Barbarouses (14. Fahid Ben Khalfallah 72’) 10. Archie Thompson (11. Connor Pain 63’) 15. Daniel Georgievski (16. Rashid Mahazi 87’) 17. Matthieu Delpierre 21. Carl Valeri 23. Adrian Leijer
Substitutes not used: 20. Lawrence Thomas (gk) 22. Jesse Makarounas
Coach: Kevin Muscat
Yellow Cards: L. Broxham 3′, M. Delpierre 59’, F. Ben Khalfallah 74’
Red Cards: Nil

Western Sydney Wanderers FC
1. Ante Covic (GK) 2. Shannon Cole 3. Daniel Mullen 5. Brendan Hamill 6. Antony Golec 7. Labinot Haliti 8. Mateo Poljak 11. Brendon Santalab (17. Romeo Castelen 68’) 14. Kwabena Appiah-Kubi (10. Vitor Rodrigues Saba 46’) 18. Iacopo La Rocca (23. Jason Trifiro 46’) 19. Mark Bridge (Captain)
Substitutes not used: 20. Dean Bouzanis (GK) 31. Alusine Fofanah
Coach: Tony Popovic
Yellow Cards: I. La Rocca 37′, S. Cole 65’
Red Cards: Nil

Referee: Jarred Gillett 8/10
Assistants: David Walsh, George Lakrindis; 4th official: Lucien Laverdure
Pitch: 9/10
Game: 8/10

BOTN Player Points:
3. Leigh Broxham (Melbourne Victory)
2. Besart Berisha (Melbourne Victory)
1. Jason Geria (Melbourne Victory)

By Agron Dauti