Melbourne Victory head coach Kevin Muscat reflected on what he felt was an even clash after a 2-1 loss to Perth Glory on Sunday.
Victory's five-match unbeaten run in the Hyundai A-League was ended after a Neil Kilkenny penalty and Diego Castro goal, with Kosta Barbarouses' late strike not enough.
Keisuke Honda made his return from injury for Victory, while Georg Niedermeier also got half an hour off the bench.
Speaking at his post-match news conference, Muscat discussed the game, their returns and the absence of star striker Ola Toivonen.
on the game…
"From our perspective, I thought it was an even game, especially in the first half, it was very, very even. In the second half, they had a period where they got on top of us and got their first goal and that helped them, that goal, that decision, helped them maintain a little bit of pressure and then in the end to give away the second goal was crucial for us. To concede the second one, you give yourself a lot to do and we almost did it, we almost got the second one in the end towards the death there with all the attacking, but it wasn't to be."
on Toivonen's absence…
"Good players, I think it's the difference in the two teams out there tonight. Raul (Baena)'s gotten his first 90 minutes in quite a long time and performed really well for us, Keisuke comes back for half an hour, Georg comes back into the team for half an hour and the performance levels lifted. Ola, he got a knock a few weeks ago and he's just not been able to remove the blood around the bone enough to get full range so the blood's calcified and it's just a waiting game for it to move and then get his full range. He's not far away, but it just seems like an eternity at the moment because he's just waiting day by day, there's not much you can do about it."
"We're very pleased with the way and the direction we're heading. The positives from tonight – to get 90 minutes into Raul, Keisuke hasn't played in seven, eight odd games, Georg almost the same and they're good footballers, but also the fact that there's quite a few players that have played a lot of football in this period of time and hopefully we get the opportunity to freshen them up a little bit."