Merrick throws down challenge
We've done our bit, now it’s up to Adelaide to respond. That was the challenge thrown down by Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick following the club's two-nil win over the Wellington Phoenix at Telstra Dome on Friday night.
We've done our bit, now it-s up to Adelaide to respond.
That was the challenge thrown down by Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick following the club's two-nil win over the Wellington Phoenix at Telstra Dome on Friday night which lifts Melbourne to the top of the Hyundai A-League table at the completion of their home-and-away season.
The Victory now have one hand on the premiership and can only be displaced if Adelaide wins by two goals or more against the Central Coast Mariners on Sunday.
Merrick conceded his team left it late - the crucial second goal from Archie Thompson came in the final minute of regulation time after Kevin Muscat had put the hosts ahead with a 40th minute penalty.
And while it wasn't a vintage performance, the scoreline gave Merrick enough ammunition to fire across his main rival's bow 48 hours out from their finals-decider in Gosford.
"The pressure is on Adelaide now, our boys have done their job," said Merrick.
"Adelaide's now got to win by two goals."
It was a line of thinking picked up and taken a step further by Muscat.
"We've put the pressure on Adelaide - I don't think they've scored too many away goals this season," the skipper observed.
"Unfortunately we've got to wait a couple of days to see what the result is."
"Tonight we've done enough to consolidate top two and, fingers crossed, come Sunday night we-ll win the league."
Having had his say on Adelaide, Merrick was keen to reaffirm his own players' strong credentials heading into the business end of the season.
"We're going into the finals with five wins from six matches and the last two games clean sheets," noted Merrick
"We've got a great squad, we've hardly had an injury this year and we've got by far the lowest yellow card count in the league."
Again, Muscat followed-up with his take on the Victory's championship prospects.
"We're very mentally strong," said Muscat.
"We know if we can hold on long enough we've got the firepower."
"That's not just my opinion, if you speak to every player in nearly all the teams, they'll have the same opinion."
As for Friday night's clash, Merrick was disappointed the result wasn't made safe a little earlier, but Melbourne, he said, fully deserved the win.
"Although we didn-t play our best football we came away with a full three points, we had a clean sheet, we scored two goals and we pulled in a fantastic crowd right behind us," said Merrick.
The coach was delighted with the team effort but singled out Kevin Muscat, Rody Vargas, Michael Theoklitos and Sebastian Ryall for their great work in neutralising the Wellington attack.
"Wellington had virtually two strikers and three interchanging midfielders … and they weren't too defensively minded so there was always a chance of catching you on the break," Merrick said.
"But we did the job."