A three all draw against Sydney FC saw Melbourne Victory stalwart Archie Thompson net a hat trick, the club maintain their unbeaten start to the season but also lose captain Mark Milligan for three weeks after a stray elbow on Terry Antonis. From one big clash to another, the Victory face cross town rivals Melbourne City in the second derby of the season.
Archie, Archie, Archie
Thompson’s hat trick proved that the 36 year old is still an integral part of any Melbourne Victory line up. The league’s “Benjamin Button” was clinical in front of goal, and his combinations with Besart Berisha, Kosta Barbarouses and Fahid Ben Khalfallah were brilliant.
In a season where news of Victory’s front line has very much focused on Berisha and Barbarouses, Thompson was able to show his worth with three goals which really highlighted his strengths. With a performance like this Thompson has shown that age is not a hindrance and that as long as he is physically fit he may have a few years still left in the league.
No Milligan, no worries
Victory’s buzz word for the season, depth, has been brought up once again with the three week suspension of captain Milligan. As for the incident itself, many have claimed that the elbow was clear as day and that the referee should have punished Milligan at that moment. However, it appears that, despite the referee being very close to the incident, Milligan’s body blocked Peter Green’s view; all he saw was the players contesting the ball and then Antonis on the ground. Irrespective of this, Milligan has been duly punished which, for Kevin Muscat, raises yet another selection question.
Yet the coach seems unphased by the suspension, although the loss of a leader is never ideal. Muscat has once again lauded the strength and depth of his squad, highlighting that the team he has built can be twisted and moulded into a multitude of combinations and still play the type of football he wants.
The straightforward option for Muscat would be to push Broxham forward to partner Carl Valeri in the defensive midfield role and start Nick Ansell at centre back alongside Adrian Leijer. However, Victory could also keep Ansell on the bench, which would mean Broxham remains in the heart of defence and someone like Rashid Mahazi could come into the line up to replace Milligan.
Ultimately, Muscat has options – a luxury some coaches in the league would love to have.
The importance of the derby
The Melbourne derby is arguably the Victory’s biggest fixture in any given season. In derbies, the wider context of what’s happening in the league, ladder positions and recent form become irrelevant. The focus for both clubs is solely on the 90 minutes about to be played. These matches always have an edge to them but this particular edition is riddled with expectations from both parties.
Victory expect to perform well and continue their unbeaten run in what Muscat has dubbed “a home game” and to atone for their inability to find a winner against Sydney FC despite going ahead twice. City have the weight of their new owner’s expectations of success, as well as trying to turn their inconsistent start to the season into a string of positive results.
Both sides look to bring in some big names up forward with international marquee Robbie Koren expected to start for City and Gui Finkler looking likely to return for Victory. Muscat said that Finkler “trained really well this week” and that welcoming back someone of his calibre was incredibly good for the team. Due to Archie Thompson’s performance last weekend Muscat now also has the option of starting Finkler on the bench and allowing Thompson to hopefully bring his good form into the derby.