Melbourne Victory’s winning run to begin the NPL3 season has extended to five games as they proved too strong for Box Hill United on Saturday afternoon, running out 3-1 winners.
Head coach Joe Palatsides made one change to his starting XI as Will Wilson made his first NPL appearance of the season, taking the place of Jordi Valadon.
A wet afternoon at Wembley Park set the scene as Victory looked to continue their perfect start to season 2023.
Victory had the first major opportunity of the game, when Tim Atherinos latched onto a misplaced pass deep in the Box Hill half before shooting hard and low across his body, only to be denied by the outstretched leg of Box Hill goalkeeper Patrick Satorie.
The home side also threatened early with regular crosses into the box, although centre-back pairing Ryan Lethlean and Josh Inserra stood up well to the pressure.
Victory would land the first major blow after 30 minutes played, when another defensive error was pounced upon by a combination of Adem Duratovic and Will Wilson, leading to Austin Ganino being played through for a simple finish into an empty net.
Duratovic nearly doubled Victory’s lead a few minutes later when Ganino turned provider with a clever flick-on, but the striker’s shot went narrowly wide of the target.
Victory though maintained their 1-0 lead up to the half-time break, putting them in pole position to continue their perfect start to the campaign.
Victory started the second 45 in electric fashion, scoring twice in the opening few minutes.
First Ganino secured his brace when he was once again in the right place at the right time to make the most of a defensive error, before cooly finishing into the bottom corner.
Wilson then added his name to the scoresheet when he was on the end of a high quality passing chain, making the score 3-0 and giving Victory a commanding lead.
Box Hill quickly hit back though when they managed to bundle the ball over the line a few minutes later, breathing life back into the contest and denying Victory the chance to get too comfortable with their advantage.
Palatsides’ side though were effective at slowing down the game in the period that followed, consolidating their 3-1 advantage for the majority of the second half.
Tommaso Minutoli, Kasey Bos and Josh Francou were all brought off the bench as Victory looked to protect their lead in the minutes that followed.
Ultimately there was no way back for Box Hill, as Victory saw out the remainder of the game in relative comfort to make it five wins from five to start the season.
Head Coach Joe Palatsides’ post-match thoughts
On the performance:
“I was really pleased for the boys.”
“They were tricky conditions against a really good team. The ladder position of Box Hill doesn’t justify how good they are.”
“We had to make sure we were on top of our game to get the win.”
“It took us a while to get going, but after that we controlled the first half and carved out some really good chances.”
“We went into half-time 1-0 up but I think we probably could have gone in with a bigger lead.”
“Second half we scored two early goals again like we did last week.”
“After that I thought we stood up and defended really well.”
“It was an all-round performance again.”
On his half-time team talks:
“Our job at half-time is to revisit what we’ve done in the first half and what we could do better.”
“Also to make sure that we’re focused – at times last year we lost a bit of focus and concentration at certain points.”
“We make sure we’re focused going into the second half and we’re clear with what our roles are both when attacking and defending.”
On Austin Ganino’s recent performances:
“Last week he chased down a 50-50 ball and scored. Today he did the same thing.”
“His work rate has been very impressive to us all.”
“He is still building his fitness.”
“But the amount of effort he gives you in a game means at the moment he is playing his role really well and we’re very pleased with him.”
“He’s improved a lot from the start of preseason until now.”
On Will Wilson’s return:
“Will came in with a really good mindset that he wanted to get some minutes into his legs and really contribute to the team. I thought he did that.”
“He created a lot of opportunities for the boys.”
“It wasn’t only when he was in attack, but he also worked really hard off the ball. He deserves a lot of credit for that.”
“He was one of the key contributors today in a great team performance.”
Victory’s next assignment is another away trip, this time to City Vista Reserve to take on Caroline Springs George Cross FC on Saturday 22 April, kicking off at 5:30pm AEST.
NPL3 Victoria 2023 Round 5
Box Hill United 1
Melbourne Victory 3 (Ganino 34′ 49′, Wilson 51′)
Melbourne Victory U23s starting XI: Ahmad Taleb (GK), Linus Bourke, Josh Inserra, Ryan Lethlean (c), Franco Lino, Alex Menelaou, Adem Duratovic, Tim Atherinos, Austin Ganino, Noah Spaseski, Will Wilson