A new era of Melbourne Victory football kicked off on Saturday night with an emotional 1-0 win over Western United in Geelong.
A sea of navy blue packed the away bays at GMHBA Stadium and were embraced by a number of fresh faces post-match after securing a hard-fought three points.
A total of eight players made their club debut on the night, with seven of the starting eleven making their first Victory appearance.
Ivan Kelava, Brendan Hamill, Roderick Miranda, Jason Davidson, Rai Marchan, Nick D’Agostino and Chris Ikonomidis all started the match on debut, while striker Francesco Margiotta came off the bench as he builds fitness.
Portugese centre-back Miranda was the standout performer, competing stoically in defence and heading in the winner from a Jake Brimmer corner to deliver the win late.
The former Benfica, Wolverhampton and Olympiakos defender was named vice-captain alongside Leigh Broxham last week and wore the armband in the place of injured skipper Josh Brillante in his stellar showing.
Kelava kept a clean sheet and directed an impressive defensive display from between the sticks, before endearing himself to fans with his passion in the post-match celebrations.
Hamill and Davidson spoiled Western’s forays forward; Marchan played with poise through midfield; and attacking duo D’Agostino and Ikonomidis worked tirelessly looking for the breakthrough.
Injured pair Josh Brillante and Matt Spiranovic will hope to add their own flavour to the fresh Victory recipe in the coming weeks as they work their way back into the team.
Head Coach Tony Popovic has been on record saying the team will improve as the season wears on as his squad gets more and more comfortable playing with each other.
It was an ideal start to the new season following a tough few years for Victory, setting up a big home clash against Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park on Sunday.
The team head to Adelaide to face Perth Glory in the FFA Cup on Wednesday night before returning to Melbourne in preparation for their first home game of the season in front of their growing membership base, which has already ticked over the 20,000 mark.