If there was a performance which could personify Melbourne Victory, it was this one.
Another finals win in the bank for Kevin Muscat – who now has plenty on his plate with two matches in the next week – and Victory once again justifying their credentials as a ‘finals side.’
The reigning champions were tested physically by a plucky Wellington Phoenix side who had come to play, in what ultimately was Mark Rudan’s last match in charge.
Despite setting an aggressive tone, the Phoenix fell away at the critical moments allowing for the home side to pounce.
Victory never looked like slowing down after defender Georg Niedermeier opened the scoring in the 42nd minute with a clever backwards header off a Keisuke Honda set-piece.
“The routine was something we had practiced,” Niedermeier said.
“It was difficult…I was just concentrating on the ball and you don’t realise how much space or pressure there is.
“The goal was a big step it was more-or-less who scored first, if they scored first we would have been under pressure and the pitch wasn’t the greatest.”
The German’s opener was followed by a goal from Kosta Barbarouses before Ola Toivonen killed off the game after a 64th minute Roy Krishna goal.
It was the first time this fixture had seen a winner this season – with the three previous meetings ending all-square.
Albeit given it was a final the result should be unsurprising with Victory now having won their last four finals.
Finals football – and winning them – is enriched in Melbourne Victory’s DNA.
It’s what they do best and unfortunately for the Phoenix, they learned the hard way that mistakes go punished in the finals.
“Today was a different game, every mistake could be your last,” Niedermeier said.
“You don’t want to take too many risks, in the league there’s always another game coming up so you can make up for it.
“We had to limit their space, we sat a bit deeper today created a lot more space for ourselves and made it difficult for them.
“It was a big step tonight, it was the first of three towards the title.”
The 33-year-old was also tight-lipped post-match about his future at the club – instead focusing his attention on the finals.
“I don’t know at the moment, we haven’t spoken about it,” he said.
“Now isn’t the time to look at this we’re focused on the finals.”
While Sydney FC awaits the reigning champions in a blockbuster semi-final rematch next weekend, Victory will have to turn their attention to a trip to South Korea to face Daegu in the Champions League.
Niedermeier was not included in Victory’s champions league squad and is expected to be joined in Melbourne by many of his first team regulars with Kevin Muscat expected to take a less experienced squad to South Korea.
Featured Image: Ngau Kai Yan