Melbourne Victory in a world of pain


On Saturday night, in their 0-0 draw with Wellington, they did not press enough against confident opponents who had the skill and nerve to take the game to them right from the outset.

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Yes, they showed plenty of grit to hang on and grab a point after being reduced to 10 men for the last half hour after the dismissal of underperforming import Kristijan Dobras.

But that is not good enough for a club with the biggest membership in the competition, the biggest average crowds and the equal record number of championships.

Even the fans are voting with their feet. Just over 12,000 attended Saturday night’s AAMI Park fixture; Wellington are traditionally one of the lowest drawcards, but this is a worrying drop-off.

With just two wins and five losses from 10 games, Marco Kurz’s team has only nine points. Victory is already 15 points behind league-leaders Sydney (who have a game in hand) and, in what will sting just as much, seven points behind A-League newboys Western United, who are third on the ladder.

Next week’s Christmas derby against second-placed Melbourne City, their local rivals, looms as a watershed.

Lose that, and it is hard to see Victory bouncing back quickly given the ground they will have to make up on the leaders.

It is easy to point the finger at Kurz and blame the coach for Victory’s woes.

He must, of course, take some of the responsibility, but it is not his alone. There are already calls for him to pay the ultimate price, but Victory has only once fired a coach mid-season – Mehmet Durakovic – and that did not spark any sort of revival, so history suggests there is little to be gained from that course of action.

The recruitment has been poor, and not all the blame can be laid at Kurz’s door for that as he only arrived 10 weeks before the current campaign kicked off.

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In the off-season Victory lost several of its best players – Carl Valeri, the experienced captain, retired, James Troisi left and joined Adelaide, Terry Antonis went to South Korea, Kosta Barbarouses joined Sydney and Keisuke Honda quit and is now with Vitesse Arnhem in The Netherlands.

These were all big shoes to fill, and its fair to say that Andrew Nabbout, Dobras, Migjen Basha and Jakob Poulsen have not yet delivered like their predecessors.

The honourable exception – at least in the past few weeks since he has been fit to play – has been Robbie Kruse. The Socceroo attacker was their best player on Saturday night, harrying, chasing, trying to drive his team forward and create openings whenever he could.

Kurz says the players lack confidence, and club captain Ola Toivonen agrees.

“I understand the fans. The second half was not really good for our side,” Kurz said after Saturday night’s game.

“In the first half you saw that the boys are not really 100 per cent self-confident in the way we want to set up and play.

“It’s a hard challenge for me, the players, the club. We have to work hard to stay positive, not to be happy with the result. To be self-critical.

“When you make a team meeting and you set up to find the gaps … and they play side-to-side it shows you that they are not confident.”

Toivonen concurred.

‘”When it comes to lack of confidence, in the build-up, how we move a little bit, we lack some confidence, but we know it.

“We knew it was going to be a struggle , but the attitude was spot-on I think from all of us, so that’s positive.

“We are not looking for top two, we are realistic. Most important is to grab the sixth place, that’s what we are aiming for.”

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