Wellington Phoenix vs. Melbourne Victory  2 - 3


Postecoglou backs Victory for late flourish

4 April 2013 02:50

Ange Postecoglou insists Melbourne Victory can go all the way in their A-League finals campaign despite a lacklustre finish to the season.

With only two wins from their last eight games of the regular season, Victory head into the finals riding a wave of sketchy form - although they did enjoy a hard-fought 3-2 away win over Wellington on Sunday.

Victory take on Perth Glory in a do-or-die elimination final at Etihad Stadium on Friday night, and the Melbourne Victory coach was adamant his side would not just be making up the numbers at the business end of the season.

"Obviously on the eve of a finals series, there's a little bit of excitement, a little nervousness but certainly the anticipation of a big crowd and a big game tomorrow," Postecoglou said.

"We're very confident, and I'm certainly not the kind of person that goes into a finals series without the belief that we can win the competition.

"We're not there just to take part - we've been preparing for this all year.

"We're there now, so we'll make sure we give it our best shot and I reckon our best shot will go pretty close."

The Glory were languishing at the bottom of the A-League ladder in February, with coach Ian Ferguson sacked and replaced by club stalwart Alistair Edwards.

That appointment triggered a turnaround that saw them win four and draw one of their past seven games to snare sixth place.

And Postecoglou is wary of the team his Brisbane side narrowly defeated in last season's Grand Final.

"They've obviously improved their fortunes over the last few weeks. They were probably, when Ian Ferguson departed, looking at being a long shot for the finals," he said.

"They've tweaked things a little bit, but I guess more than anything there's a psychology to it too - a new coach comes in and everyone wants to prove themselves.

"And they can play with a little bit of freedom too, knowing that probably everyone sort of wrote them off.

"They've still got some quality players - they made the final last year. A lot of those players will be backing up tomorrow."

Postecoglou feels his side's experience playing in front of big crowds at home will stand them in good stead for the Etihad Stadium blockbuster.

"The tempo, intensity - especially early on - is always up a notch (in finals)," Postecoglou said.

"The beauty of that, in terms of us, is that we get that every second week playing at home. Hopefully we're better prepared than anyone else.

"I think playing for this football club prepares you well for finals games. We've played derby games here, the games against Sydney and Adelaide, and even the Western Sydney games - they're big games on a weekly basis.

"Our players are constantly under that scrutiny of pressure."


Victory poised for Glory test

2 April 2013 08:08

Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou says his side have failed to gain the momentum he wanted heading into the A-League finals series.

With a top-two spot all but out of the question after being belted 6-2 by Central Coast in February, Postecoglou set his sights on finishing the season strongly.

But regular changes to the starting line-up hindered Victory's chances in the final five games of the season as they claimed two wins, including a 3-2 triumph over Wellington on Sunday.

Speaking at the launch of the A-League finals series on Tuesday, Postecoglou said he expected more but was nonetheless confident his players could get the job done, beginning with the elimination final against Perth Glory on Friday night.

"We've been pretty disrupted with injuries and absences through internationals, but it is what it is," he said.

"That's why Sunday was important for us. I think it gave us a chance with the bulk of our team out there to go into it feeling good about it.

"It hasn't been the wave of momentum that I would've liked, but at the same time, the players have been pretty resilient through it.

"I'm pretty harsh on what we do and we set our standards very high. Other clubs will probably be rapt to finish third, we haven't been. We want to be top every year.

"When you put it against that measure, maybe people are underplaying how good we are, but that's fine with me as well.

"I'd rather go in there with people underestimating us than thinking we're going to take it all before us.

"I've been very hard on the players this year and they've come through it. I've been very pleased with the way they've come through it and I can tell you one thing - they're ready for finals football."

Postecoglou was delighted to come through the trip to New Zealand without any fresh injury concerns.

The constant changes to the line-up have caused Victory problems defensively, keeping just one clean sheet in their past 10 outings.

But the former Brisbane Roar coach, who has won six grand finals in as many appearances as a player and mentor, said it was no concern.

"As long as you score more than the opposition you win games and we're third on the ladder, so we're going OK," Postecoglou said.

The revamped finals series means one of the top two is no longer assured a grand final spot and Postecoglou said third place had a better opportunity than in previous seasons.


A-League: Wellington Phoenix 2 Melbourne Victory 3

31 March 2013 08:27

Melbourne Victory secured third place in the A-League and consigned Wellington Phoenix to the wooden spoon with a 3-2 victory on Sunday.

With less than 10 minutes to go it looked like the teams were heading for a draw, which would have lifted the Phoenix above Melbourne Heart following their loss to Central Coast the previous day.

But Archie Thompson's 84th-minute strike sealed Wellington's fate and brought a disappointing close to a horror season which had promised so much but failed to deliver.

The defeat also signalled the end of goalkeeper Mark Paston's six-year Phoenix career following the 36-year-old's announcement earlier in the day that he was retiring.

Paston, who was handed the captain's armband for his final match, will not want to see replays of Victory's opening goal as he slipped in the box which allowed former Wellington team-mate Marco Rojas to shoot into an empty net.

The big New Zealander was then left stranded on his line as an unmarked Marcos Flores doubled Victory's lead in the second half.

Quickfire goals from Stein Huysegems and Jeremy Brockie gave the Phoenix a glimmer of hope of salvaging something from the season only for Thompson to put the final nail in the coffin with little Paston could do about it.

Victory's win confirmed their third-place finish and an elimination final against Perth Glory on Friday.


Victory blood teenage defender

30 March 2013 05:02

Teenage defender Jason Geria will start for Melbourne Victory against Wellington Phoenix on Sunday.

There is little on the line when the clubs go head-to-head in the A-League at the Westpac Stadium, but Victory coach Ange Postecoglou said Geria, 19, will get the chance to stake his claims ahead of Victory's finals campaign.

"We brought him down halfway through the year from Brisbane," Postecoglou said of the former Roar player.

"He's someone who played with the Under-20s (Young Socceroos) in the qualifiers, did quite well there and he's a good strong defender.

"We've been playing him more as a central defender, but obviously with the full-back positions, we're trying a few things and we're going to give him an opportunity at right full-back tomorrow."

Postecoglou also confirmed all his stars were in line to play, including midfielder Marcos Flores (cramp) and attacker Marco Rojas, after the latter appeared for New Zealand at the international break recently.

Victory's Australian representatives Mark Milligan and Archie Thompson are also fit and firing, especially given defender Milligan didn't play a minute for the Socceroos in their World Cup qualifier with Oman in Sydney.

While Victory are already assured of a home final, their opponent at Etihad Stadium in week one of the finals is still to be determined - and it could be in Melbourne's hands whether they play one of Brisbane or Sydney.

Should Postecoglou's men win, they'd be guaranteed to take on the Sky Blues, while a draw or loss could seed them take on the gaffer's old club Brisbane.

But the 47-year-old said he was unconcerned about fixing a result to suit a desired match-up.

"I'm pretty pragmatic on these things, that's the reality," he said.

"We had 19,000 on Thursday night (at Brisbane v Sydney), we had 22,000 last night (at Newcastle v Western Sydney), we're going to have a big crowd in Perth tonight (Glory v Adelaide).

"If anyone thinks that Australian football doesn't need those sorts of crowds, and those sort of numbers, then they're kidding themselves.

"So whatever philosophical or ideological arguments we have, that's the reality of sport in this country.

"If people think coaches go around contriving results, most coaches are all in the business of winning games of football.

"And from our perspective tomorrow, regardless of what happens tonight, we want to go in there and play well tomorrow and be ready for next week."


Phoenix desperate to climb A-League table

29 March 2013 06:24

Wellington Phoenix are determined to end a terrible season on a positive note when they take on Melbourne Victory on Sunday.

A turbulent A-League campaign, which eventually cost coach Ricki Herbert his job, ends at Westpac Stadium this weekend.

A draw or a win could see them avoid the dreaded wooden spoon if Melbourne Heart fail to get a result against Central Coast Mariners the day before.

"We want to try and get off the bottom of the table. That's what we're playing for," said captain Andrew Durante.

"We've been really good in the last three or four weeks in the way we've played, not just results.

"The performances have been a lot better. Hopefully we continue that and hopefully put in a good performance for the crowd for our last game."

Durante, who made his New Zealand debut against the Solomon Islands in Honiara on Tuesday, admitted it was a season he would be glad to see the back of.

After a string of poor results, even poorer performances and ultimately Herbert's resignation, who could blame him?

"It's been a very up and down season and a really disappointing season to be honest," he said.

"I think everyone realises that. But we've got a home game to finish and hopefully people come out and see us off in a good way."

Striker Stein Huysegems, whose season has been resurrected since Chris Greenacre took over as interim head coach, expects an open game with plenty of goal-mouth action.

"(Victory) always score a lot of goals and we want to win our last game of the season at home for the supporters," said the Belgian.

"I think there is going to be a lot of space for the attackers.

"Hopefully it's a nice game for the supporters and a good result for us at the end of the season.

"We'll know the result of Melbourne Heart before the game so that can maybe motivate us to take a point or three points."

Greenacre will be without Vince Lia (toe), Glen Moss (knee) and Tony Lochhead (leg), while Isaka Cernak (ankle) is still doubtful for the match.

It leaves Greenacre light on holding midfielders with Manny Muscat expected to remain at right-back and Ian Hogg at left-back.

Louis Fenton, Dani Sanchez, Alex Smith and Cameron Lindsay are Greenacre's midfield options.

Returning All Whites Durante, Ben Sigmund, Leo Bertos, Jeremy Brockie and Mark Paston are all expected to start.

A-League table

# Team MP D P
1 27 +20 57
2 27 +26 54
3 27 +3 44
4 27 +1 41
5 27 +4 35
6 27 -2 32
7 27 -10 32
8 27 -15 31
9 27 -9 27
10 27 -18 27
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