Kelava boosts Victory’s bid for defensive turnaround

For the first time in the Club’s history, Melbourne Victory head into an Isuzu Ute A-League Men season with a European goalkeeper.

Victory conceded the most goals during a difficult last season, leading to plenty of change under new Head Coach Tony Popovic.

Croatian goalkeeper Ivan Kelava has arrived at Victory, having worked with Popovic at Greek club Xanthi.

It marks the first time in Victory’s history the Club is starting an Isuzu Ute A-League Men campaign with a European goalkeeper and visa player in the squad.tony popovic

The 33-year-old is joined by Matt Acton as the two goalkeepers in Victory’s squad.

Acton usurped Max Crocombe as starting shot-stopper last season, making 16 starts in 2020/21.

Kelava, a Croatia youth international at five different ages, is venturing outside of Europe for the first time in his professional career.

After winning five top-flight titles in Croatia with Dinamo Zagreb, Kelava played for the likes of Udinese and Granada.Ivan Kelava

The 2020/21 season was Victory’s first since Lawrence Thomas departed the Club for Danish outfit SonderjyskE.

Thomas was Victory’s first-choice goalkeeper for four seasons, winning two Championships, a Premiership and an FFA Cup with the Club.

His departure left a hole which was difficult for Victory to fill.

Crocombe and Acton combined to keep just two clean sheets for Victory in last season’s Isuzu Ute A-League Men.

It was the fewest number of clean sheets Victory has kept in a season, with the previous lowest being five (on multiple occasions).

Victory will be desperate for that to change in 2021/22, and Kelava shapes as being a key in that.

With a revamped squad, including defence, in front of him, Kelava will hopefully be able to lead a Victory turnaround.