Muscat satisfied after shoring up finals spot


Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat has declared himself satisfied after watching his side secure its place in the Hyundai A-League playoffs.

Victory’s comprehensive 4-1 win over Wellington Phoenix confirmed their spot in the top six with one round remaining in the regular season.

MATCH REPORT: Victory secure finals spot against Phoenix

“I’m very, very pleased,” said Muscat afterwards.

“After last weekend’s [Phoenix] result against Melbourne City and [how they] self-proclaimed at the start of the season that this is the best squad Wellington have ever produced – and I agree with that – I knew they’d be wounded.”

“To perform the way we did, I thought was exceptional.  From a tactical point of view and the way Wellington set up, I thought we pressed them and suffocated them and made them play in their own half which was creating chances for us, which was very pleasing,” he said.

Melbourne Victory players celebrate Kosta Barbarouses' goal against the Phoenix on Saturday.

Victory were reduced to ten men when Besart Berisha was sent off ten minutes before half-time for kicking out at Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante as the Melbourne striker received treatment for a head injury. But Muscat praised the way his side adapted to the numerical disadvantage.

“We had to make some adjustments and the players were outstanding in adhering to the instructions when we went down to ten men. Even with ten men we were still creating the better chances.”

On the red card itself, Muscat was philosophical.

“Bes did kick out. The contact was very, very, very minimal. I’m disappointed and disappointed for Bes as well. There were things leading up to it. It is what it is. The main focus for me immediately was to get some instructions to the group. There were that many tackles flying in from Wellington I just got the feeling it would get evened up,” he said.

Besart Berisha

The win also saw the return of Carl Valeri after an inflammatory condition affecting part of his brain had kept him sidelined since late November.

“I’ve been in the game for as long as I can remember and I’ve never known anything to come upon someone the way it has on Carl,” said Muscat.

“He’s the fittest bloke in the country, let alone the team and [he was] struck down by something that no-one could pinpoint.”

“Fortunately two or three weeks ago he came knocking on the door, asking to train. We still have to monitor him; he got 25 minutes tonight which wasn’t the plan but I’m very happy for him. He’s one of the good guys in the game.”

And Muscat wouldn’t be drawn on Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick’s assertion the Victory mentor wouldn’t shake his hand after the final whistle, instead heading straight for the tunnel.

“I don’t have a take on [that]. Tonight I needed to get to the bathroom and I wanted to get to Bes.”