Kurz broken: Kruse cues Victory celebrations
FOR Melbourne Victory fans planning on catching a replay of Friday night's game, save yourself the trouble.
That's not to take away the importance of the win - only the second of the season for the Victory' - or the fight and physical exertion the players displayed in holding off a rampant Perth Glory.
Victory coach Marco Kurz implemented a counterattacking strategy and the players executed in the high-stakes game at AAMI Park, where a loss would have been disastrous.
For those desperate to catch the game, fast-forward to the 33rd minute, when the superb Robbie Kruse iced his performance with a key goal, and the 77th minute barney between Diego Castro and Kruse, who hasn't lost any of that cheek that made him loved by home fans and loathed by opposition.
There was a tasty match-up between 2015 Asian Cup winning teammates Ivan Franjic and Kruse, while Bruno Fornaroli and Migjen Basha got in an old-fashioned alleyway scrap off the ball.
It was an entertaining game, and in many ways the roles reversed from the enthralling Round 2 encounter last season when Glory nicked a 3-2 win and announced itself as an A-League title contender to shrewder observers.
"It was a tough game, (a win means) a lot. A long way (to go), hopefully a step in the right direction," Kurz said.
"We must (continue) hard work. Hopefully we can set up the next games in right direction. It's good to stay grounded, to know what we have to do next week."
THE NEW VICTORY ERA
Things appear to be so different at Victory in 2019-20, and it's been a lot to take in.
The philosophical change, a coach ditching the suit for a club tracksuit, and even the press pack's been affected, with half-time party pies and sausage rolls, which have been a staple at Victory games since AAMI Park was built, replaced by scones with jam and cream.
Thank heavens for Leigh Broxham, who reminded one that everything was, in fact, normal, producing another herculean performance at stopper to help keep Bruno Fornaroli, Diego Castro and Chris Ikonomidis goalless.
For all the changes, the biggest shock to the system was the lack of wins, with sub-par efforts a close second.
That was evident in the eerily timid pre-game atmosphere at AAMI Park.
Pockets of jeers accompanied Kurz's image on the big screen, before some of the players got a virtual silent treatment when their names were read over the PA system.
The 90 minutes in between were hardly inspiring, but Victory fans saw the team have crack and win.
The final whistle prompted overdue celebrations, a maiden home win of the season in Broxham's 300th A-League game.
FITNESS ALARM BELLS
Kurz must have suspected Tony Popovic of crafting a voodoo doll.
Defenders Tommy Deng and Tim Hoogland pulled up sore after last week's loss to Adelaide United. Storm Roux was due to start but turned up to AAMI Park sick as a dog, before his right-back replacement Brandon Lauton's back seized up in warm-up.
Midfielder Anthony Lesiotis - probably the fifth or sixth-choice right-back - was plucked from the bench moments before kick-off and was immense, staying composed against Socceroos left-back James Meredith and the an all-star cast of Glory attackers.
Each change would have chipped away at Victory's confidence, making the win against a similarly underperforming but talented Glory side impressive.
Kurz is a wily coach and he knew the stakes.
"I was not worried (about the team being outplayed and out-possessed), it was part of the plan. I know we don't have the power to press them high, so we setup the bock a bit deeper," Kurz said.
"I can't press high with injury history of my offensive players, it makes no sense."
BROXHAM THE GREAT
Walking out with his triplets, Broxham had more familiar faces on the pitch with ex-Victorian junior representative teammate Meredith starting at left-back in Glory's 4-3-1-2 formation.
Broxham's consistency regardless of the position he is deployed in, or how the team is travelling, is remarkable.
The importance of Broxham's versatility was massively highlighted in his 300th A-League game, with him slotting in at centre back due to Deng and Hoogland's absence.
Kurz paid tribute to Broxham, while revealing he erred on the side of caution with Hoogland.
"It's good to have him (Broxham) in the team and give him a good present and celebrate in a good way," Kurz said.
"He (Hoogland) is not injured - he felt something during the week, only in long passes, we stopped idea to let him start, because he's for us too important. Now we'll take it day by day. It was too much risk."
VICTORY BACK IN LOVE WITH KRUSE
Kruse displayed the intelligence he's gathered in the eight years in Germany, despite being underdone in starting debut for Victory since returning.
His goal, and clever run behind the Glory defence when he identified an opening with Andrew Nabbout on the ball, and general movement and ability to beat players, were a vital outlet for a Victory side that had few moments of respite.
Kruse admitted trying to wind up the fired-up Castro, who almost took the bait, and it endeared him to the Victory fans, who immediately started chanting his name.
The beauty for Victory is that he is well short of full fitness and that front three looms as a huge threat when they click and when the rest of the squad is balanced out.
"It's been pretty testing the last four months. I'm happy with the performance, I'm around 70 per cent now. Confidence is vital, we didn't have a lot going into this game," Kruse said.
MELBOURNE VICTORY 1 (Kruse 33)
PERTH GLORY 0
Crowd: 13,084 at AAMI Park
Victory: (4-2-3-1): Thomas; Lesiotis, Donachie, Broxham, Traore; Basha, Poulsen; Nabbout (Brown 90+2), Kamsoba, Kruse (Athiu 88); Toivonen.
Glory: (4-3-1-2): Reddy; Franjic (Kim 57), Wuthrich, Grant, Meredith; Juande (Chianese 78), K Popovic (Brimmer 65), Kilkenny; Castro; Ikonomidis, Fornaroli.
Referee: Alex King
Red cards: Nil.
Davutovic's man of the match: Robbie Kruse (Victory)
The Socceroos attacker showed his quality, scoring the matchwinner and providing a key outlet for a Victory side under pressure throughout large parts of the game and one which has been too reliant on Ola Toivonen for attacking solutions.
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