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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 6 May 2017
28 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 6 MAY 2017 SPORT DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM ISSN 1321-1676 9 771321 167062 Besart Berisha PHOTO: ESPN FC Where many would see a difficult challenge, high achievers tend to see an opportunity GEORGE STOGIANNOU Sunday's A-League Grand Final is one such occasion, representing a chance for Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat to outmanoeuvre a stronger opponent. Will Muscat have something up his sleeve for Sunday's grand final against Sydney FC at the Allianz Stadium? His Melbourne Victory team has come off second best to the Premiers in each of their three league meetings this season, losing the first two encounters 1-2 and the third match by 1-0. In nearly all comparisons between the league's two top sides this season, Victory comes off second best. Perhaps the most salient comparison is the recent form of the two teams in the run into the final showdown. In their last six games of the season, Victory won just twice and lost three while the Sydney siders won five and drew one. Going into Sunday's grand final, coach Muscat will be aiming for his team to not concede an early goal, knowing the longer his team can keep Sydney FC scoreless, the more pressure the home team will come under, given the weight of expectation of the home fans. It won't be an easy task, as Graham Arnold's team has demonstrated great confidence, self-belief and calm this season, even on the few occasions they have fallen behind during a game. Victory's central defenders Baro and Donachie will need to be at the top of their game to keep the likes of Bobo and Holosko quiet. Muscat will also hope that his skipper Carl Valeri together with club stalwart Leigh Broxham will form an effective screen in front of the back four and reduce the influence of Sydney FC's star playmaker and newly awarded Johnny Warren Medallist Milos Ninkovic, together with Alex Brosque. At the other end, Victory will face the meanest defence in the league anchored by keeper of the year Danny Vukovic, the player who made his debut in the first season of the A-League in 2005, for the Central Coast Mariners against the club he'll face on Sunday, Melbourne Victory. Together with centre backs Wilkinson and Buijs, fullbacks Grant and Zullo and screening midfielders ONeill and Josh Brillante, it's a defence which conceded just 12 goals in 28 league matches and kept a record 17 clean sheets. Just how effective they are was on show in last week's 3-0 semi-final win over Perth Glory where they essentially neutralised the Glory threat including that of Glory maestro Diego Castro. Sydney FC's rock solid de- fence has presented problems for every opposition A-League coach this season with only the Central Coast Mariners managing to score more than a single goal in a game against them all season. Victory striker Besart Berisha has created his own milestones this season, scoring his 100th league goal. The Kosovo International is a proven finals performer and Sydney FC will be working hard to cut off his supply lines out wide from Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Marco Rojas. As the top two teams in the competition this season, both are deserved grand finalists. Sydney is probably the better balanced team and the most consistent performer and will go into the match a warm favourite. But Victory has their own potential match winners. It's not impossible, but if Muscat can mastermind his second Victory grand final win against Sydney FC on Sunday, he'll rightly take his place amongst the ALeague's best coaches.
29 April 2017
13 May 2017