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Melbourne Victory hold Champions League dream, win praise from unexpected quarter

Right: Matthieu Delpierre’s calm demeanour, organisational skills and tactical understanding made the difference on the back line against Shanghai. Photo: Robert Cianflone Victory’s defence was excellent against Shanghai, with youngsters Nick Ansell and Jason Geria producing coming-of-age performances. Photo: Robert Cianflone
苏州美甲美睫培训学校

Melbourne Victory and coach Kevin Muscat have won praise from an unlikely source for their Asian Champions League triumph over Shanghai SIPG on Wednesday night – Melbourne City boss John van ‘t Schip.

Victory clawed out a 2-1 win over the big spending Chinese club, coached by former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson, in a thrilling contest played at a frantic pace.

Muscat’s team managed to quell, for the most part, Shanghai’s big name imports Dario Conca, Elkeson and Asamoah Gyan, and Van ‘t Schip was impressed with their organisation and strong will.

He was not, however, impressed by Shanghai, who, he said, looked less like a team and more a collection of individuals.

Granted the Chinese team was playing only its second competitive match since the Chinese Super League season ended last December, and it was trying to integrate players new players.

But, said Van ‘t Schip, the game showed how preparation and team spirit could take Australian teams a long way against superior technical opponents with much bigger budgets.

The Dutchman hopes to be in Muscat’s position next year, if City can nail one of Australia’s guaranteed two spots in the competition.

“To be honest, I think Victory deserved to win that game. Shanghai had some chances as well, but  I was very disappointed in the Chinese team,” the Dutchman, who was at AAMI Park to watch first-hand, said.

“You can see with less money and more team effort and a game plan you can still achieve a lot of things in the Asian league.

“Western Sydney is a good example, and yesterday was another. If you have players that are really wanting to make the effort and work with each other you can still get wins against teams that have maybe three or four individual good players, but the team doesn’t really work together.

“I think that was the key yesterday, that Melbourne Victory looked like a team and Shanghai didn’t .”

Muscat can feel delighted that his side got off to such a positive start, even if Eriksson felt his team did enough to secure a point.

Winning home matches is vital in such tournaments, and if Victory can now pick up a point away to Gamba Osaka next week its chances of making it past the group stage will multiply.

The club is one of a number of A-League sides said to be chasing Socceroo winger Tommy Oar after he ended his contract with English Championship team Ipswich Town last month, citing homesickness.

Club officials confirmed on Wednesday night that Oar was on their radar, most likely as a replacement for Kiwi wide man Kosta Barbarouses, who is expected to move to Wellington for a big-money marquee player contract next season.

While Oar could undoubtedly assist with a rebuild at Victory, Muscat must surely wish he could persuade veteran French defender Matthieu Delpierre to reconsider his decision to head back to Europe at the end of the season.

The former Stuttgart captain has said he plans to return to live in Germany at the end of his contract later this year and his will be huge shoes to fill when he goes.

Delpierre was immense in the win over Shanghai, hardly losing out in any contest.

Victory’s defence was excellent through the night, with youngsters Nick Ansell and Jason Geria producing coming-of-age performances.

Delpierre’s defensive attributes – he is strong and good in the air and the tackle – are one thing. But his calm demeanour, organisational skills and tactical understanding make him the outstanding  leader of a backline that often features younger players.

Muscat would love to have him for one more season, both as a player and as a mentor to his youthful defenders like Ansell, Geria, Scott Galloway and Thomas Deng.

“Jason’s season has been interrupted with international duty, we are still not going to see the best of him, he is still finding his feet because of his fitness,” said Muscat, predicting further improvement from Geria.

“Nick and Matthieu were outstanding, and both Nick and Thomas are gaining so much experience from playing alongside Matthieu. It will be hard to persuade him to change his mind, but lets enjoy watching him for the rest of the season,” Muscat said.

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