Melbourne Victory debutants Dalibor Markovic and Zaydan Bello received praise from Head Coach Grant Brebner after Wednesday’s 2-0 win over the Wellington Phoenix.
Markovic and Bello impressed on debut at AAMI Park, where Rudy Gestede scored a brace.
While Markovic played 90 minutes, Bello came on at half-time, the pair finishing the game as part of a back four that also included Aaron Anderson and Leigh Broxham.
Birkan Kirdar also played a full game and Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio and Jay Barnett were introduced off the bench.
“There’s a lot of plus about tonight. I think we finished the game with six academy players on the pitch, which is terrific from our perspective, and playing well,” Brebner said after the win.
“Zaydan Bello, second half looked like he’d played a number of games in the first team.
“Dalibor didn’t take any steps back tonight, he can be really happy with his 90 minutes.”
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Markovic had a game-high five interceptions, while Bello contested more duels (16) and won more duels (nine) than any other Victory player despite only playing 45 minutes.
Bello replaced the injured Ryan Shotton at half-time and Victory’s youthful defence held firm.
“I’ve got absolutely no problem in throwing them in there,” Brebner said.
“At half-time, when Ryan’s coming off, of course it runs through your mind that you’ve got three youth team players in your backline and a midfielder so it’s not really how you would like to set up.
“But at no point did I feel that we were going with an inferior team by putting those boys in there because I’ve been in and around them for a number of years.
“I think it helps that I’ve been in and around them because they didn’t feel probably as stressed because of the conversations I had with them pre-game. Zaydan and Dali can be really happy with tonight.”