As they are wont to do come finals time, Kevin Muscat and his Melbourne Victory side took care of business on Friday night, advancing to the A-League’s semi-finals for the third consecutive season after defeating Wellington Phoenix 3-1 in front of 16,010 fans at a wet and wild AAMI Park.
It’s the fourth time in the last five seasons that Victory has progressed to the penultimate week of the A-League season and sets up a mouth-watering meeting with the only other side able to make that claim next week; Victory set to meet Sydney FC in a semi-final Big Blue on 12 May at Jubilee Stadium.
Victory were forced to sweat it out for much of the first half against a game Phoenix squad on Friday night; Roy Krishna’s work up front for the visitors giving central defenders Georg Niedermeier and James Donachie a number of headaches with his ability to work his way into dangerous positions and facilitate the Nix’s forward movement.
Nonetheless, a set piece special from Keisuke Honda and Niedermeier gave Victory a lead with just minutes to go before half time – turning the game on its head.
The class of Victory’s superstar talent then took over in the second half, with lethal Ola Toivonen producing a performance for the ages as Victory added to more goals to send the Nix packing.
“I thought from our perspective we created quite a few opportunities,” Muscat said after the game.
“(We) earnt quite a few opportunities and scored some very good goals.
“It was a contest where there wasn’t much love lost out there, there was a battle – as finals are – and from us, I think we also kept our discipline and kept our heads in key moments.
“From there, we exposed some areas that we wanted to try and break them down and scored some good goals.
“From our perspective, it was a really strong performance, a performance that we got better tonight.”
Missing James Troisi after the marquee man was unable to overcome a low-grade hamstring tear, Victory started former NPL SA and NPL VIC player Elvis Kamsoba on the wing on Friday night.
Signed from Avondale FC in the mid-season window, the diminutive Kamsoba was clearly battling nerves in the early stages of the contest but clearly grew into the contest as the game went on.
The 22-year-old game agonisingly close to grabbing his maiden professional goal in the dying minutes of the second half when he forced ‘Nix goalkeeper into a fantastic save after being picked out by Toivonen inside the area.
“Based on everything that we’d analysed and we’d seen of ourselves over a period of time, we felt it was right for tonight’s opponent,” Muscat said of his XI.
“(Right) for the way we wanted to play, to have Elvis in the team.
“He’s performed at a level that has brought him to the forefront in selection so based on how we wanted to play and analysing both ourselves and the opposition I felt it was the right game for him, the right moment for him.”
Muscat also praised the work of Toivonen in his post-game conference.
The 32-year-old striker was masterful in leading the Victory line, his movement off the ball just as sublime as his work on the ball.
Netting Victory’s third with a sweetly taken finish, Toivonen was also responsible for setting up Kosta Barbarouses second goal and could easily have finished with several more assists had the bounce of the ball favoured Victory.
“His finish was outstanding,” Muscat said of Toivonen’s goal.
“You could see actually he was waiting for Elvis, he was waiting to square that ball, he took a touch, he took a touch, waiting for Elvis to come, he didn’t realise maybe how quick he actually is to get onto that ball.
“His finish was remarkable, it was an excellent finish and Ola’s been getting better and better and tonight was a really strong performance from him.”