Melbourne Victory proved too strong for Ballarat City on Saturday afternoon, running out 5-1 winners at Morshead Park.
Head coach Joe Palatsides made just one change to his starting XI, as George Karvounis replaced Tim Atherinos whilst Franco Lino returned to the bench after being away with Australia’s U18’s squad.
A typically cold and gusty afternoon set the scene for a clash between two teams at opposite ends of the table.
Whilst on paper Victory were heavy favourites, playing away in Ballarat is never a straightforward task.
Victory immediately looked to assert their authority by controlling the possession, executing several high quality passing moves in the process.
Noah Spaseski had the first major chance of the match when Kasey Bos advanced from left full back to play an excellent cross into the box, but Spaseski’s glancing header flew just wide of the target.
Ballarat looked most threatening when in transition, quickly sending the ball up the pitch in the hopes of causing chaos amongst the Victory defence, but Ryan Lethlean and Damien Bozinovski dealt well with the threat.
The breakthrough goal continued to elude Victory as the half-time whistle approached.
However, persistence eventually paid off for Palatsides’ side, who struck twice in the final few minutes of the half to take full control of the contest.
George Karvounis was involved in both, first winning the ball back and sending a superb cross into the penalty area where Austin Ganino was able to put away the chance with a first-time finish.
Then Karvounis would add his own name to the scoresheet, jumping at a chance created by a defensive error to double his team’s advantage.
The two goals ensured Victory headed into the half-time break with a 2-0 advantage and well on their way to securing another three points.
The visitors did not take long to re-find their feet in the second 45, putting together a wonderful passing move down the right wing to create space for Ganino, whose low cross into the box was finished off by Karvounis arriving at the far post.
A brace for Karvounis as Ganino returned the favour from the first half by assisting his fellow winger.
The best goal of the day was still to come though and would arrive just after the hour mark.
Jordi Valadon was the player to deliver the quality, nailing a free kick from the edge of the area into the top left corner.
A delightful strike which extended Victory’s lead to 4-0.
The home side did reduce the deficit 10 minutes later when a penalty awarded for a foul just inside the box was duly converted.
However, the four-goal lead was quickly restored when Bos, who had taken up a more advanced position on the left wing, finished brilliantly with a curling effort from just inside the box a few minutes later.
5-1 the full-time score as Victory continued their run of free-scoring football, adding another three points to their tally in the process.
Head Coach Joe Palatsides’ post-match thoughts
On the performance:
“It’s never easy coming to Ballarat.”
“We new they had a new coach and the weather conditions were really tricky, so we had to be switched on from the start.”
“We took control of the game very early.”
“Even though the goals didn’t initially come, we were actually playing some really good quality football.”
“Eventually some of those chances turned into goals.”
“To end up scoring another five goals is great for the team because it proves we can create and convert chances.”
“On the flip side I thought they (Ballarat City) created very few opportunities.”
On the inclusion of George Karvounis:
“Two goals when you first come in is pretty good.”
“Although we shouldn’t forget that in our first game of the year George came off the bench and scored a really crucial goal for us against Beaumaris.”
“He’s a really high quality young player.”
“We’ve got some great depth in the squad at the moment. The young boys are really stepping up.”
On Franco Lino and Josh Inserra rejoining the squad:
“Ideally I didn’t really want to bring the boys down to Ballarat. I wanted to give them a couple of days off – our boys played the most minutes of anyone in the U18’s national team.”
“But we’re struggling a little bit with injuries and sickness at the moment, so they got off the plane (from Portugal) on Thursday afternoon and were on the way to Ballarat today.”
“That speaks volumes about the character of both of the boys.”
“That’s the type of culture we’ve created and we’re really proud of those two in particular.”
Victory return home to Epping Stadium next Sunday 25 June where they will host Essendon Royals. The game kicks off at 3:00pm AEST.
NPL3 Victoria 2023 Round 14
Ballarat City 1
Melbourne Victory 5 (Ganino 36′, Karvounis 39′, 50′, Valadon 63′, Bos 78′)
Melbourne Victory U23s starting XI: Christian Siciliano (GK), Ryan Lethlean (c), Kasey Bos, Alex Menelaou, Adem Duratovic, Jordi Valadon, Austin Ganino, Noah Spaseski, Marc Latsis, George Karvounis, Damien Bozinovski