Melbourne Victory head coach Kevin Muscat was pleased with what he saw from debutant Leroy George in his side's loss to Sydney FC.
A second-half own goal from Thomas Deng saw Victory edged 1-0 by the Sky Blues in its Hyundai A-League opener at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
With James Troisi away with the Caltex Socceroos, George started in the number 10 role and produced a lively display before coming off in the 65th minute.
Muscat was happy with the 30-year-old's performance in a central role and he expects George to improve further in the coming month.
"I think it was a bit harsh on him as well having to put him out there, but the circumstances are the circumstances," he said.
"We knew that we would get somewhere close to 60 minutes out of him. There were glimpses that were very, very good.
"There were times especially in the first half I think we could've utilised him and got him the ball a lot earlier and he would've caused a lot more damage but, a pleasing debut for him."
Muscat also praised Deng, who produced a fine display at left-back and was unlucky with his own goal, and recruit Rhys Williams.
The Victory head coach said his team deserved to get at least a point in the Grand Final rematch.
"Not the start in terms of the return of points, but I was fairly pleased and disappointed for the boys because I thought we were worth something," Muscat said.
"Early on we were controlling in terms of where we wanted to force them and how we wanted to play.
"We had three or four real good opportunities to create goalscoring chances and just the final pass was a little bit off.
"You could just sense, Leroy having to start tonight, in other circumstances he wouldn't have, he tired in the back end of the first half and then we got 15 minutes out of him in the second half and had to change things up.
"At the end of the game, we had a number of opportunities, number of chances, and a reflection of them having to defend so desperately was a fair indication that we were knocking, had a number of chances there with the ball bobbling around in the box, but unfortunately for us we couldn't put one away."
Victory hosts City in the Melbourne Derby at Etihad Stadium in Round 2 on Saturday, October 14.