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Post by asdfghjk on Tue Apr 29, 2014 10:21 pm

Kevin Muscat could barely contain his emotions in the wake of Melbourne Victory's controversial semi-final defeat against Brisbane Roar on Sunday, and it was hard not to sympathise with the navy blues' boss.
His side had launched a withering final blitz against the championship favourites and looked to have been denied an obvious penalty when referee Strebre Delovski ignored Victory's 92nd-minute protestations and waved play on after skipper Mark Milligan had been felled in the six-yard box by his opposite number, Matt Smith.
Had Victory converted a spot kick, the game would have gone into extra time with momentum on Victory's side.

Melbourne Victory under Kevin Muscat.
The outrage and drama should not, however, dominate any analysis of Victory's season, a campaign in which they changed manager early in the piece, and launched a very public spat with the FFA over its pursuit of their coach, Ange Postecoglou, who eventually became Socceroo boss.
The board appointed a favourite son in Muscat to replace him, handing a rookie first-season coach arguably the biggest job in the domestic game as his first major appointment.
They then stuck fast when there was agitation - including from within the board - to rethink that appointment when the team went through a sticky mid-season patch including two humiliating 5-0 losses to Wellington in New Zealand and against Sydney at home on Australia Day.
To say its been a steep learning curve for Muscat and those in control, would be an understatement, given the challenges of competing for the A-League title and in the Asian Champions League.
The Victory boss played at the highest level and experienced the pressure-cooker of the English Premiership (briefly) and the high-intensity grind of the English Championship for years, but playing is one thing, coaching another.
Even an assistant coach, while riding every tackle and challenge, doesn't have to carry the pressure that the senior coach does: the players shower, recover, change and go home, but the coach never rests or sleeps and is always thinking, not just about tactics and personnel, but about training programmes, fitness regimes, managing injuries, squad rotations and future signings.
Muscat has come through his first almost full season with a strong pass mark. His first few months did have a feel of learning on the job, but in the past six weeks, as the grind of the ACL and the A-League championship chase stepped up, he has come to the fore and grown in maturity.
He has shown an ability to think on his feet and mix and match his personnel to extract the optimum in almost all situations.
Particularly impressive has been the club's rotation policy, and Muscat's preparedness to leave out experienced men and bring in youngsters when he thinks the former need a rest or the latter need exposure.
The A-League, at 27 games plus a handful of finals, is hardly taxing work compared to most other competitions around the world. But what makes it harder is the sheer volume of travel involved, especially for teams involved in the Asian Champions League.
Nowhere else in the world are sides expected to play on a Friday, travel 14 hours on a Sunday, play on a Tuesday, travel 14 hours back and then front up for the biggest game of the season three days later. But that was Victory's assignment in the nine days leading up to Sunday's semi-final, when they travelled to South Korea before facing Brisbane.
Muscat showed he had the courage to risk results by leaving out key players from some of these games, and the faith in his younger men to achieve results.
In most cases Victory got those results, and exceptfor two horrendous refereeing errors - Sunday's against Brisbane and an equally grievous one in South Korea on Tuesday night which denied the Melbourne team a last gasp penalty - Muscat could have led the club to a Grand Final and a place in the Asian Champions League round of 16.
Even finishing the way they did in fourth place, hypervenom phantom having lost in the semi-final for the second successive year, this season must be regarded as a successful one. Although Victory finished one place higher under Postecoglou (their third-place classification came from their final position on the A-League ladder) Muscat has effectively matched his predecessor's results on the domestic stage. He hasn't, however, qualified his club for the Asian Champions League playoff, which Postecoglou did.
''I think throughout the team you can see, it's been Soccer Shoes Cheap a long campaign as much as you try and shift and select teams accordingly, naturally it takes its toll. The majority of the squad have played a lot of football this season,'' Muscat said in the emotional aftermath to Sunday evening's loss.
''We have had the opportunity to find out where a lot of the younger guys are at. We will persist with that, they will improve dramatically from this campaign this season and we will ask more of them next season.
''We have had a very successful season. We are two stonewall penalties away from a grand final and a round of 16. The players should be immensely proud of themselves. We were two blatant spot kicks away, but it wasn't to be.''
Planning for next season, as is ever the case, begins now.
Muscat can take credit for reinvigorating James Troisi and bringing a harder edge to the skilful wide man's game. He now looks likely to secure a place in the World Cup squad, thanks to his efforts in navy blue this year.
But there must be a big question mark about his availability next season. If he goes to the World Cup he will surely be a more attractive proposition, if not for his current owners Atalanta and Juventus, then for another European club who could step in to take him off Victory's hands. He is here on loan, and remains an asset for his Italian owners.
Mark Milligan has already been the subject of a couple of offers from England and the Middle East this season. If he plays well in Brazil he could also be a target again, although Victory will drive a hard bargain with any potential suitor as he is still under contract.
Adama Traore is out of contract, and Muscat would dearly love to keep him, as he would Gui Finkler, the Brazilian midfielder. Talks with both players are ongoing.
Pablo Contreras is also at the end of his deal and while many expect him to finish up, sources at the club say the Chilean veteran would like to continue, although he knows he will be on a much-reduced deal if he does.
And last but not least, evergreen striker Archie Thompson, the man who, along with Muscat, did so much to create the Victory ''brand'' in the early years, is understood to have agreed to a new one-year deal to wind down his days with the club.
Besart Berisha will give the navy blues some bite and aggression up front next season, but he will not be the last of the signings.
With Melbourne Heart about to morph into Melbourne City and bring in some big name players themselves, things are about to become even more interesting next year.


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