Sunday Herald Sun - - News - MATT WINDLEY

MEL­BOURNE Vic­tory is yet to con­cede a goal to an op­po­si­tion player this sea­son.

But Kevin Muscat’s men still man­aged to come out on the wrong side of the ledger in its sea­son-opener last night, los­ing 1-0 to Sydney FC at Eti­had Sta­dium af­ter the most un­lucky of sec­ond-half own goals off de­fender Thomas Deng.

It meant there would be no grand fi­nal re­venge for Vic­tory, with Sydney ex­tend­ing to five its win­ning streak against its south­ern ri­val.

The un­der­manned hosts, miss­ing Mark Mil­li­gan, James Troisi and Kosta Bar­barouses to in­ter­na­tional duty, put in a per­for­mance that would sug­gest they are again likely to be one of Sydney’s chief ri­vals for the ti­tle — es­pe­cially when at full strength.

But the dogged Sky Blues were able to hold Vic­tory at bay in an in­ter­est­ing rather than ab­sorb­ing con­test in front of 24,804 fans.

Luke Wilk­shire strug­gled at times in the first half, but the for­mer Soc­ceroos full back was in­stru­men­tal in the game’s sole goal.

His 53rd-minute cross in the di­rec­tion of Alex Brosque was pin­point. And al­though Brosque could only get the slight­est of head­ers on it, the de­flec­tion was enough to throw off a des­per­ately un­lucky Deng, who could only watch in hor­ror as the ball ric­o­cheted off his shin and past a stranded Lawrence Thomas.

Wilk­shire al­most made it 2-0 four min­utes later, af­ter an ex­quis­ite Mi­los Ninkovic back­heel played him through, but was de­nied by Thomas.

Sydney was off the pace for the first 25 min­utes or so, but once it got a foot in the game Gra­ham Arnold’s team largely ap­peared in con­trol, carv­ing out the lion’s share of the chances and win­ning the pos­ses­sion bat­tle.

But there were bright spots for Vic­tory, in par­tic­u­lar the de­but of Leroy Ge­orge.

Re­cruited pri­mar­ily as a winger, the Dutch­man was used in the No.10 role last night with Troisi away and his third-minute nut­meg of Wilk­shire had fans chant­ing “Leroy, Leroy” right away.

From there on his 65-min-

(Sydney FC) New team­mate Adrian Mierze­jew­ski also shone, but Ninkovic just shaded it af­ter pick­ing up where he left off in last sea­son’s Johnny War­ren Medal­win­ning cam­paign. ute dis­play was eye-catch­ing and Kevin Muscat ap­pears to have found a gem, es­pe­cially if, as he him­self con­ceded, he still has a long way to go in terms of match fit­ness.

His sub­sti­tu­tion brought about an A-League de­but for 19-year-old Ho­bart prod­uct Josh Hope, who also ap­peared lively through­out his cameo.

Also mak­ing his first ap­pear­ance in Vic­tory colours, for­mer Perth stop­per Rhys Wil­liams looked ex­cep­tion­ally strong at the back.

Mil­li­gan, Troisi and Bar­barouses will be back for next Sat­ur­day night’s derby against Mel­bourne City at Eti­had. KEVIN Muscat isn’t “ring­ing any alarm bells” af­ter Mel­bourne Vic­tory suf­fered a 1-0 loss to Sydney FC at Eti­had Sta­dium last night.

The Vic­tory boss lauded the de­but of Dutch re­cruit Leroy Ge­orge, who starred in his 65minute first out­ing de­spite Muscat re­veal­ing he was nowhere near ideal fit­ness level.

And Muscat also said Ar­gen­tine re­cruit Ma­tias Sanchez was likely to be fit for Sat­ur­day’s Mel­bourne derby af­ter miss­ing last night with a ham­string nig­gle.

Vic­tory will also get back in­ter­na­tion­als Mark Mil­li­gan, James Troisi and Kosta Bar­barouses, who were all un­avail­able last night.

In a tightly con­tested grand fi­nal re­match, the only goal be­tween the sides was a Thomas Deng own goal early in the sec­ond half.

“Alarm bells aren’t ring­ing be­cause we gave as good as we got,” Muscat said.

“There was very, very lit­tle in the game. In the first pe­riod we cre­ated a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties where some more qual­ity in that last pass would have cre­ated a goal scor­ing op­por­tu­nity.

“In the sec­ond half we knocked and knocked and (Sydney) de­fended des­per­ately be­cause they had to.”

Muscat said there was no need to wrap an arm around Deng, who he was im­pressed with at left back de­spite the own goal. Ge­orge has been re­cruited as a winger, but last night played the at­tack­ing mid­field role left va­cant by the miss­ing Troisi.

Muscat said the fact Ge­orge played so well was a credit to him given he only ar­rived two weeks ago and in­sisted the team wouldn’t see the best of him for a few weeks yet.

“I think it was a bit harsh on him hav­ing to put him out there,” he said.

“But the cir­cum­stances are the cir­cum­stances. We needed to get close to 60 min­utes out of him. The glimpses we had of him were very, very good, es­pe­cially in the first half.

“I think we prob­a­bly could have utilised him a lot more a lot early and he would have caused a lot more dam­age.

“A pleas­ing de­but for him.”

Leroy Ge­orge had the Mel­bourne Vic­tory fans chant­ing his name within min­utes of his A-League de­but in the loss to Sydney FC last night. Pic­ture: JOE CAS­TRO/AAP Mi­los Ninkovic

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