Melbourne Victory were unable to overcome an impressive Caroline Springs George Cross outfit in Sunday afternoon’s top-of-the-table clash, succumbing to a 2-0 defeat.
Head coach Joe Palatsides named an unchanged XI following last week’s win against Box Hill United, whilst Linus Bourke made his return to the match day squad via the bench.
Victory came into the game knowing that if they could secure their fifth win in six matches, they would extend their lead at the top of the NPL3 table to 10 points.
The intensity of the contest was apparent from the first minute, with neither side willing to afford the other any time or space on the ball.
The first major incident of the game arose just before the half-hour mark, when after initial calls for a George Cross penalty had been waved away, a similar incident just minutes later led the referee to point to the spot.
The penalty was duly converted, handing the visitors a valuable lead.
George Cross would double their advantage just over 10 minutes later, when a clever cross from the edge of the area was powerfully headed home.
A real blow for Victory just before half-time, who despite a strong finish to the half, were unable to reduce the deficit before the break.
Palatsides looked to his bench 10 minutes after the restart, bringing on Tim Atherinos in the hopes of revitalising his team’s prospects going forward.
However, high quality chances remained few and far between, as Victory struggled to break down a resolute George Cross defence.
Victory were handed a lifeline with 20 minutes remaining, when Kayne Razmovski was adjudged to have been fouled just inside the penalty area.
Adem Duratovic stepped up to take the subsequent spot kick, but was unable to beat the goalkeeper, ensuring the scoreline remained 2-0.
Alex Gust and Linus Bourke were brought off the bench for the final 15 minutes, before an injury to Austin Ganino led to the introduction of Nathan Stamatelos just prior to the end of the 90.
The drama continued deep into the contest, with a late red card shown to a George Cross player following a challenge on goalkeeper Christian Siciliano.
George Cross were reduced to nine players in the final action of the game, before the final whilst brought an end to proceedings with the visitors holding on for all three points.
Head Coach Joe Palatsides’ post-match thoughts
On the performance:
“I’m a bit disappointed. I think the whole group is disappointed because we were really looking forward to this game.”
“To George Cross’ credit they were very good, especially in the first half.”
“Conceding from two set pieces put us a long way behind in the game.”
“I think we were better in the second half.”
“We created some chances, but unfortunately we probably weren’t good enough on the day.”
On coming up against high quality opposition:
“Credit to George Cross. I thought they were well organised.”
“We tried to play our brand of football, but we probably didn’t keep the ball or hit our targets as much as we usually do.”
“They were well organised, but we were also subpar today. We couldn’t execute our game plan to the extent that we wanted to.”
On Austin Ganino’s injury:
“Sometimes there are things which happen in a game which are more important than the result.”
“Obviously Austin going down hurt wasn’t great to see. We’re not sure of the severity of the injury yet.”
“He’s had a really strong season, scoring crucial goals and providing several assists.”
“We hope it’s nothing too serious and he’s back on the field soon.”
On the recent promotions of academy players to the senior squad:
“Josh Inserra, Franco Lino and Jordi Valadon have all signed scholarship deals with the A-League squad.”
“Obviously it would have been nice if they were available today. They probably would have helped us get a better result.”
“But from an academy perspective, seeing our boys get scholarships and joining the A-League squad, if we have to miss them from some academy games then so be it. We’re just happy that we can provide quality young players to Tony Popovic and the A-League team.”
Victory travel to More Park next Friday night to take on North Sunshine Eagles, with the game kicking off at 8:30pm AEST.
NPL3 Victoria 2023 Round 17
Melbourne Victory 0
Caroline Springs George Cross 2
Melbourne Victory U23s starting XI: Christian Siciliano (GK), Ryan Lethlean (c), Kasey Bos, Alex Menelaou, Adem Duratovic, Kayne Razmovski, Austin Ganino, Noah Spaseski, Marc Latsis, George Karvounis, Damien Bozinovski