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Sydney slip gives Victory title sniff … if City do them a Friday night favour

Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat settling into his seat at AAMI Park and barracking for Melbourne City?
Nanjing Night Net

Don’t bet against it, particularly this Friday night when Victory’s cross-town rivals go head-to-head with league leaders Sydney FC.

Victory’s excellent performance in Gosford on Sunday, when goals from Besart Berisha, James Troisi and Berisha again in stoppage time gave Muscat’s men a 3-0 win, lifted them to within eight points of the Sky Blues.

The latter crashed for the first time this season going down 1-0 to their own city rivals, Western Sydney,  that loss giving the chasing pack the merest sniff that they might be able to close the gap.

Sydney has 47 points to Victory’s 39, with City third on 30, just ahead of Brisbane on goal difference, with Perth Glory two points back on 28, and  West Sydney, with 24,  rounding out the top six spots on the table.

Victory’s 3-0  scoreline didn’t flatter the visitors, who showed a spring in their step that was distinctly lacking just six days earlier when they had laboured to a goalless draw with Newcastle in the Hunter Valley.

City were themselves impressive when they flogged Wellington 5-1 on Saturday night in New Zealand and now that they have regained  their scoring touch they will fancy their chances of inflicting more misery on Sydney, a team they have yet to lose to this season  having drawn with them at the Olympic Stadium in December and beaten in the FFA Cup final in November.

“Not sure if I will be barracking for City but you would have to say they will give themselves a good chance of beating Sydney on Friday,” Muscat said  on Monday.

“If they take three points off them on the Friday and we beat Adelaide on the Saturday, then the gap is down to five.

“And the following week we go up there to play Sydney. Win that and the gap would be two points and anything might happen.”

There are, of course, a lot of ifs and buts in that scenario, but Sydney’s loss to the Wanderers and Victory’s recovery from its hiccup on Monday night at least provides some hope that there might be a final twist in the race for the Premier’s Plate.

Muscat was delighted with the effort of his team which could, had it taken all of its chances, had the game put to bed at the interval.

Instead it only  led through Berisha’s first-half goal and could not feel completely comfortable  until Troisi added a second.

The latter has been in good form all season and is now adding regular goals to the creativity he has shown in midfield.

Troisi was a member of the Socceroos Asian Cup-winning squad – he scored the extra time winner in the final – and is pressing hard for a recall to Ange Postecoglou’s squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers and the Confederations Cup.

“It was a very good performance by us. The Mariners were in good form and were confident but I thought we took control early and played well,” Muscat said.

“I thought we were very good physically and in the way we maintained our shape and structure, and our mentality was right for this game. When you combine all those things you get a really good performance like this.

“Troisi was very good without the ball as well as with it, and he is now adding that consistency to his game. I think there is still improvement to come from him.”

Victory defender Jason Geria said the players were pleased to have put that lacklustre effort against the Jets behind them.

“Our main focus was improving on our performance last week … this was a very positive [result] going into this weekend.

“We needed Sydney to drop points, and we need to focus on ourselves, it’s a cliche but it’s the truth. Berisha is getting back into scoring goals, which we love,” he said of the team’s talismanic striker, whose Sunday afternoon brace brought his tally to 16 goals for the season after 20 rounds.

Muscat continues to be linked with the vacant job at stricken Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers, who are also said to be targeting Craig Moore, his former Socceroo teammate and ex Rangers captain.

Muscat looked to deflect attention from  the speculation on Saturday when he straight-batted inquiries, insisting that he had not been contacted by the Glasgow club.

That did not, however, stop one of Scotland’s  biggest media outlets, the Daily Record, seizing on his comments to suggest that he had yet to rule himself out despite the fact that he was happy in Melbourne.

Geria, put on the spot about his coach’s abilities, was enthusiastic about the role Muscat has had on his career.

“For me he has been brilliant. He has really blossomed in that head coach role.”

Asked if he thought Muscat might go overseas at some point, Geria said: “He has all the qualities,” stressing, however,  that his boss would only go when it was the right time for him.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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