Merrick happy with Chinese performances

Melbourne Victory Coach Ernie Merrick praised the team’s efforts in China, but was disappointed to lose the Lord Mayor’s Cup to Chinese Super League (CSL) side Tianjin Teda 2-1 in a fiery contest at TEDA Football Stadium on Sunday.

Melbourne Victory Coach Ernie Merrick praised the team-s efforts in China, but was disappointed to lose the Lord Mayor-s Cup to Chinese Super League (CSL) side Tianjin Teda 2-1 in a fiery contest at TEDA Football Stadium on Sunday.

Melbourne Victory was forced to play the majority of the second and final match of its whirlwind tour of China with 10 men after Archie Thompson was controversially sent off, but took confidence from a cracking Nick Ward goal on 48 minutes.

“I-m very happy with both performances, but disappointed by both results, especially losing the Lord Mayor-s Cup,” Merrick said from China.

“We had to play with 10 men and we did really well.

“Our midfield is looking really strong. We had (Grant) Brebner and (Leigh) Broxham with (Tom) Pondeljak and (Nick) Ward on either side.

“Our defence is pretty much back to full strength with Kevin (Muscat), Rodrigo (Vargas), (Matthew) Kemp and Evan (Berger).

“Danny Allsopp-s right on top of his game and Archie looked terrific until he got sent off.

“We-re still trying to work out why Archie was sent off, but apparently it for was dissent towards the linesman. It was very strange.”

Chi Rongliang and Han Yanming scored before half time for Tianjin, yet it was goalkeeper Zhao Yanming who was the hero with a number of telling saves, including one from a Muscat penalty that would have levelled the score.

Ward kept Melbourne Victory in the contest with a scorching shot from outside the penalty area and continued to test Zhao Yanming when Tianjin was also reduced to 10 men following an off-ball altercation.

“One of the aims of the trip was to get our midfielders scoring goals and the competition for midfield spots now is very good,” Merrick added.

Tianjin, which currently sits fifth on the CSL ladder after 10 rounds, held on to reclaim the Lord Mayor-s Cup, which acknowledges Melbourne-s sister city relationship with Tianjin.

Melbourne Victory will now return to Melbourne, where Merrick confirmed that injured duo Steven Pace (shoulder) and Ney Fabiano (ankle) will require further scans, but that the “initial signs are not as bad as we thought in both cases”.

Tianjin Teda 2 (Chi Rongliang 10-, Han Yanming 43- pen) Melbourne Victory 1 (Nick Ward 47-) Sunday, June 7, 2009 TEDA Football Stadium, Tianjin, China