Melbourne Victory alleviated some of the pressure on coach Kevin Muscat’s shoulders with a resolute 3-3 draw against K-League Classic side Ulsan Hyundai at AAMI Park on Tuesday night.
Under pressure domestically after two straight defeats, Victory took to the continent in search of a turn of fortunes.
And it was hardly smooth sailing as the visitors took the lead three times, only to be pegged back by Victory no more than 180 seconds later on each occasion.
The home point on matchday one is not exactly ideal for Victory’s hopes of progression out of Group F, but nevertheless Muscat was pleased by his side’s effort after a below-par fortnight.
“You put things into perspective … we’re striving to get better and no season is unique,” he said after the game.
“This season we’ve put up with quite a few things and had to deal with quite a few things: international breaks, the January transfer window with Mark (Milligan), so we’ve had to deal with quite a lot.
“Now it’s about reassuring ourselves and resetting and going from here.
“Everything that I’ve seen tonight from the group – albeit we took a couple of punches in the nose from the first couple of set pieces – I thought the reaction and the way we went about things and the endeavour and desperation to get back in the game was outstanding.”
Fifth on the A-League table and in need of a spark, Muscat hoped Tuesday’s result could provide exactly that.
“I look at that performance tonight and I’ve seen everybody fighting for this football club,”
“I dare say that’s what people want to see, but to see the players fight and work like they did tonight was pleasing after … a difficult game, the last one, but we take this in isolation.”
Victory’s form has left them fifth on the A-League table and with plenty of work to do in the final seven matches of the season.
In real danger of missing the top six with just four points of breathing space above seventh, the heat has been turned on the coach to oversee a lift in performance.
And that pressure reached something of a climax during and after Victory’s 2-1 loss to Brisbane Roar last Friday, when audible boos were heard, some directed at Muscat.
Muscat declared his team’s performance showed the dressing room was still united.
“Even the boys who came on fought for the football club, fought for each other, fought for me and it was pleasing to see,” he said.