Melbourne Victory played out a hard-fought 0-0 draw against Caroline Springs George Cross on Saturday evening, continuing their unbeaten start to the season.
Head coach Joe Palatsides made two changes to his XI, both coming in defence as Damien Bozinovski and Jack Pope replaced Josh Inserra and Linus Bourke.
George Cross came out firing for the contest, immediately applying a strong press and looking to force defensive errors.
Victory did well to escape the early exchanges unscathed, and gradually worked their way into the game to create a more even contest.
Austin Ganino had Victory’s best chance early in the match, firing an ambitious attempt from range which was pulled narrowly wide of the post.
The home side though created the majority of chances in the first half an hour, forcing goalkeeper Ahmad Taleb into a handful of strong saves.
The intensity of the game inevitably reduced as the half wore on, but the physicality remained high in what was a captivating contest.
Neither side though could find the opening goal, with the scoreline still 0-0 when the half-time whistle blew.
Victory were able to control more of the play following the interval, although both sides continued to pose a threat going forward.
Ganino again came close for Victory with a powerful strike which forced a good save following a corner, before Taleb was called back into action a few minutes later to make a brilliant stop of his own from a free-kick.
Palatsides opted for a triple change just after the hour mark, with Tommaso Minutoli, Eli Adams and Josh Francou all given the opportunity to make an impact.
Kasey Bos and Nathan Stamatelos were also brought on later in the half as Victory exhausted their outfield substitutions in search of a winning goal.
The drama continued right up to the end of the 90, when a goal-line clearance from Damien Bozinovski preserved Victory’s clean sheet following a scramble in the box.
Ultimately, neither side could find the breakthrough goal as both were forced to settle for a point.
Victory’s first dropped points of the season, although they remain unbeaten after six games played.
Head Coach Joe Palatsides’ post-match thoughts
On the performance:
“It wasn’t our best performance.”
“We played against a really well organised team.”
“Even though we did have moments in the game, they created the better chances.”
“Credit to George Cross. They piled the pressure on right until the very end.”
“We were under pressure and I thought our defence across the entire team was really good to not concede.”
“It’s the sign of a good team when you don’t play your best and you still get a result like we did tonight.”
“We’ve definitely got some areas to work on, but I thought considering how hard the boys fought and how determined they were not to concede a goal, there were some positives to come out of it as well.”
On the intensity of the game:
“I wasn’t happy that we couldn’t control the game.”
“That’s an area where we’ve always been strong, our ability to keep possession under all sorts of pressure.”
“This game in particular we couldn’t find a moment to take control of the contest.”
On dealing with the physicality:
“It’s part of the players’ growth that they get to play against strong, physical teams each week.”
“I think a lot of times the opponent really targets that area of the game because maybe we’re a bit more accomplished in other areas.”
“It’s hard to prepare for that.”
“But what we do find is that from game to game we get better at dealing with the physicality.”
On the takeaways from the match:
“We walk out of today’s game feeling like we lost because we didn’t play as well as we could have.”
“We’re disappointed we didn’t play at our best.”
“We’ll go away and look at why we couldn’t control the game like we usually do.”
“Definitely the boys will take learnings out of it.”
Victory return home to Epping Stadium next Sunday 30th April for another tough assignment against North Sunshine Eagles kicking off at 3:00pm AEST.
NPL3 Victoria 2023 Round 6
Caroline Springs George Cross FC 0
Melbourne Victory 0
Melbourne Victory U23s starting XI: Ahmad Taleb (GK), Ryan Lethlean (c), Franco Lino, Alex Menelaou, Adem Duratovic, Tim Atherinos, Austin Ganino, Jack Pope, Noah Spaseski, Will Wilson, Damien Bozinovski