Melbourne Victory moved within a point of securing promotion on Sunday afternoon, as two early goals proved enough to claim all three points against Nunawading City.
Head coach Joe Palatsides made a host of changes to his lineup, with several players available again having featured in the Australia Cup last week. Only Christian Siciliano, Noah Spaseski and Marc Latsis remained from last week’s XI.
Victory came into the game needing a reversal of their recent fortunes, having suffered defeats in their two previous outings.
Palatsides’ side looked to be on a mission from the start as they immediately put Nunawading to the sword.
Kasey Bos played a superb cross from the left-hand side after only one minute had been played, finding the feet of Tim Atherinos who cooly finished to put his team ahead.
Victory’s hot start continued just a couple of minutes later, when a scramble in the penalty area ended up with Adem Duratovic firing the ball into the back of the net, making the score 2-0 within the first five minutes.
Will Wilson and Noah Spaseski each came close to scoring Victory’s third later in the half but narrowly missed out.
Goalkeeper Christian Siciliano was called into action a handful of times throughout the half too, most notably in the final few minutes, but dealt well with each challenge that was put before him.
Victory reached the break with their 2-0 advantage intact, having played one of their most impressive halves of the season.
George Karvounis was brought off the bench for the second 45 as Palatsides’ team looked to maintain the momentum they created in the first period.
Victory were content to play a safer brand of football after the restart, forcing Nunawading to take on the initiative of finding a way back into the game.
Chances largely dried up in the second half as a result, with Victory attempting to manage the game and keep hold of their lead.
Kayne Razmovksi and Tommaso Minutoli were brought off the bench in the final 15 minutes as Victory edged towards a significant win.
Nunawading did threaten a late fightback when they halved the deficit in the final few minutes of the game, but ultimately left their run too late.
Victory saw out the remainder of the contest, holding off the late Nunawading surge and returning to the winners’ list.
A vital win for Victory, who as a result move within one point of guaranteeing promotion with three games still to play.
Head Coach Joe Palatsides’ post-match thoughts
On the performance:
“Obviously we got off to a great start, and that’s what the difference was in the game.”
“I thought the first half was a really good performance by the boys. They set the tone early on and we went into half-time with a deserved lead.”
“In the second half we probably managed the game more so than playing the football we usually do, which is good because that’s an important part of their development.”
“Overall I thought it was a deserved victory.”
On nearing promotion:
“Our main goal is to give these boys as much development as we can to help them live their dreams of being professional footballers.”
“Underpinning all that is the hard work they put in to execute game plans so that they play the way we want Melbourne Victory teams to play but also to get results.”
“To have had such a great year and being so close to getting promoted, it’s something these boys really deserve.”
On the players who featured in the Australia Cup:
“Quite a few boys were involved in that game.”
“Playing 120 minutes in the heat and humidity of Darwin and having to back it up a few days later, it’s probably understandable that the boys tired a bit near the end.”
“But that experience I think showed them that they’re not far away from where they want to get to.”
“For them to not drop at all and perform well today sums up the type of quality we have in this team.”
Victory face a tough away trip to Stead Park next Saturday night to take on Geelong SC, kicking off at 6:00pm AEST.
NPL3 Victoria 2023 Round 19
Melbourne Victory 2 (Atherinos 2′, Duratovic 4′)
Nunawading City 1
Melbourne Victory U23s starting XI: Christian Siciliano (GK), Josh Inserra, Ryan Lethlean (c), Franco Osuru, , Alex Menelaou, Adem Duratovic, Tim Atherinos, Noah Spaseski, Marc Latsis, Will Wilson, Kasey Bos