In Theo we trust

When Wednesday night's Pre-Season Cup final came down to penalties, Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick had faith that he had the right man between the sticks to get the club the season's first silverware.

When Wednesday night's Pre-Season Cup final came down to penalties, Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick had faith that he had the right man between the sticks to get the club the season's first silverware.

Michael Theoklitos had already done enough to keep Victory in the game, producing two excellent second-half saves to preserve the 0-0 scoreline.

When the whistle went to indicate this match would be decided by penalties, Merrick had full faith that his players, and in particular his goalkeeper, to get the job done.

"We practiced penalties. We do it as a fun thing on a regular basis, and it was great to see the boys being so calm under pressure, everyone except Wardy slotted them away really well," Merrick said.

As the shootout evolved, it was apparent that this wasn't going to be about one team falling apart under pressure. If Shane Smeltz's wild effort rattled the home fans' nerves then surely they were settled again when Nick Ward did a similar thing with the Victory's fourth kick.

From that point on, shot after shot hit the back of the net. Sebastian Ryall, Danny Allsopp, Matthew Kemp and Evan Berger never looked like missing, and all the while Merrick knew sooner or later his custodian would get his hand to one.

"I think that's when I knew we had it, because Michael Theoklitos has got a great record in penalty shootouts, he was just outstanding. He got his finger tips to two, one was over the bar, and he made the save at the end. We felt that if we put them away, the goalkeeper would do the job for us," Merrick said.

Amazingly, all but two of the 18 shots in the shootout went to the left of the respective goalkeepers. Phoenix stopper Glen Moss was admirable, but never actually got his hands on any. In contrast, Theoklitos was repeatedly reading the kicks and just failing to get enough on them to keep them out.

Karl Dodd's penalty was hit low and to his left but wasn't hit as fiercely as he would have liked, Theoklitos pounced, knocking the ball away and getting his team over the line. For Merrick it's a fitting reward for what has been a pre-season full of promise.

"Winning any Cup in terrific. The boys set themselves that challenge, I didn't set it. They set they wanted to win it, it was a collective decision," he said.

"I made it hard for them. I didn't want to play Kevin (Muscat) until he was 100 per cent. I took off three of our best players at half time last week and I made them train really hard. They've taken on everything and it's made them stronger for it and I think it's a perfect lead-in for the Sydney game in the first round."

Melbourne's itinerary reads like a Qantas pilot of late with journeys to Launceston, Perth, Port Macquarie and Wellington. Merrick said that while this has made it tough, the players were better for the experience.

"To be fair to the boys, that is the fourth away game in a row and the travelling has been tough. They boys were drained tonight. We've been talking about pushing things through and working hard and keeping our intensity up," he said.

"It's been a perfect preparation for the A-League season and to get to the final, which the boys set themselves the challenge of winning, and to do the job, it sets us up well for the A-League season."

Victory memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season are currently available from the Victory Shop, 236 Swan Street, Richmond, by calling 1300 GO MVFC or online by clicking here.