Merrick unfazed by away goal

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick says his team is in pole position in the Hyundai A-League major semi-final following the first leg dismissing concerns over the fact Sydney scored a crucial away goal.

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick says his team is in pole position in the Hyundai A-League major semi-final following the first leg dismissing concerns over the fact Sydney scored a crucial away goal.

While Sydney now only has to win the second leg at home 1-0 on March 7 to earn hosting rights for this year's grand final, Merrick believes his team has the advantage after winning 2-1 at Etihad Stadium on Thursday night.

And the Victory coach has vowed to maintain the same attacking approach that has been his trademark in the second leg even though Victory faces a striker shortage with Archie Thompson in a race against time to recover from a foot injury while Robbie Kruse is out for the entire finals series with an ankle injury.

And Melbourne's worries in that department increased on Thursday night after recent signing Nik Mrdja received a red card in the second half after having scored his first goal for his new club in the opening half to give Victory an early lead.

But while Merrick is confident Mrjda's ban will be rescinded on review, he said regardless of what strikers he has available for the second leg his team will not sit back and try to play for 0-0 as Victory bids to host its third grand final in five seasons.

"The away goal (scored by Sydney) doesn't bother me at all," Merrick said after the first leg.

"It's about winning games and we will go to Sydney to win the game."

"And I am convinced we will score at least one goal up there, which will negate theirs."

"That (away goal) is not a problem for me and if went out there thinking we can't give a goal away then I think we play more negative football."

"But we didn't, we went out there and attacked and that is what we do and now they can start worrying about (scoring) goals at home."

Melbourne had failed to score in all three home and away meetings against Sydney this season but Merrick never doubted his team would find a way to find the back of the net against their bitter rivals as the stakes increased during the finals.

"It never really concerned me because I always thought we were creating chances and given now we have scored 49 goals this season - we are double Sydney's tally - so it was only a matter of time (before Melbourne scored against Sydney)," he said.

Merrick said the return of skipper Kevin Muscat from a two-match suspension made a huge difference to Victory on Thursday night after Melbourne had succumbed 2-0 in the last game of the home and away season in Sydney last week to hand the Sky Blues the Premiers' Plate.

"Kevin was a huge addition and his passing out of the backline was first class," Merrick said.

Indeed it was a perfectly weighted pass from Muscat which provided Mrdja with the opener before a similar ball from Nick Ward set up Johnny Warren Medalist Carlos Hernandez for the second in the 40th minute.

Unfortunately for the reigning Hyundai A-League champions, John Aloisi got one back for Sydney just before half-time which went in via a deflection from Muscat.

The Victory skipper admitted after the game that Melbourne keeper Mitch Langerak would have saved Aloisi's weakly hit shot had it not struck Muscat on the way through.

"Mitch had it covered but the natural reaction is to stick your leg out (to try and block the shot) and it has come off my leg and gone over Mitch," he said.

"John (Aloisi) would be the first to admit he didn't hit it as cleanly as he would have liked but unfortunately for us it went in the back of the net."