New manager, same result as James Troisi scored the match-winner for Kevin Muscat's Melbourne Victory on Monday evening at the Etihad Stadium. Unlike last week, in Ange Postecoglou's postlude, Troisi's goal did not stand alone. Archie Thompson scored first and Troisi scored twice in the first half hour for the Melbourne side. The third goal was ultimately the decider as Jeremy Brockie and Paul Ifill brought Wellington close to what would have been a dramatic draw. Instead, the Victory got a 3-2 win and moved up to third place in the A-League.
The match, for all its in-game intrigue, also featured plenty of story lines off the park. The occasion marked Ernie Merrick's return to Melbourne after his sacking in March 2011. Likewise, Carlos Hernadez, who played at the Victory under Merrick, played his first game against Melbourne as a visiting player. And of course it was all in the context of being Muscat's first game in charge of the Victory.
Thompson opened scoring before the 10th minute, connecting with Adama Traore to give Muscat some early relief from the pressure of his debut. Troisi quickly took over the game for most of the rest of the first half, a presence that was highlighted by his two goals. The first came when he intercepted a poor back header by Andrew Durante in the 22nd minute. Troisi made it 3-0 in the 31st minute by chipping Glen Moss after a long ball from Kosta Barbarouses.
At that point it looked like the Victory might simply have outclassed the Phoenix, but Wellington answered quickly to make a game of it. Hernandez, who was fantastic in midfield, set up Brockie for Wellington's first in the 37th minute, sending a signal of hope back across the ditch. Stein Huysegems scored shortly thereafter but was called back for offside. Further reducing the Victory's momentum was the substitution of Mitch Nichols in the 41st minute due to a lingering calf injury.
After half-time, Wellington did its best to claw back into the game, mostly on the back of its midfield. As the Phoenix won balls in the center of the park, Hernandez was given the chance to spring his attacking teammates. Yet the Victory stood firm and even had a fourth ball in the back of the net, though Thompson was offside. Finally, Ifill, who replaced Huysegems in the 72nd minute, scored a brilliant individual goal in the 85th minute to reduce the gap to one. Five minutes was not quite enough to complete the comeback and the visitors took heart but no points back to New Zealand.
With his debut behind him, Muscat can now focus on the Victory's next game which comes on Saturday November 9 at the Allianz Stadium against rivals Sydney FC. Wellington will return to New Zealand but will host Perth Glory on Saturday at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
MVC Thompson (Traore) 9'
MVC Troisi 22'
MVC Troisi (Barbarouses) 31'
WEL Brockie (Hernandez) 37'
WEL Ifill 85'
Melbourne Victory: Coe; Traore, Contreras, Leijer, Geria (Galloway 89'); Milligan, Broxham; Thompson, Troisi (Pain 83'), Barbarouses; Nichols (Finkler 41')
Unused subs: Thomas, Ansell
Wellington Phoenix: Moss; Caira, Durante, Sigmund, Fenton; Lia (Bertos 74'), Muscat, Riera (Hicks 67'); Huysegems (Ifiill 72'), Hernandez, Brockie
Unused subs: Spoonley, Boxall