When things are not going your way you can’t take a trick.
Melbourne Victory has now taken only one point from its past two games with controversial refereeing decisions costing the team at least three points, its coach Kevin Muscat believes.
In the wake of Victory’s last-gasp loss to Melbourne City in Saturday night’s derby the second season boss has vowed to ensure his team are the hungriest and most committed side in the competition, promising his players that there will be no let up in the three week A-League break while the Asian Cup takes place in January.
Victory was on the wrong end of two dubious decisions in its round 10 A-League game against Sydney that resulted in the Sky Blues getting two goals in a 3-3 thriller at Etihad on December 13.
On Saturday night they were also the victims of another contentious call, when Fahid Ben Khallfallah’s 72nd minute “goal”, which would have put them one up in a keenly contested derby against City, was ruled out for offside.
Muscat still doesn’t understand that call, and remains at a loss to explain why Melbourne City played out most of the second second half with 10 men after the clash between City’s midfielder Jacob Melling and Victory skipper Leigh Broxham, who was felled by a flailing elbow to the face from the former.
Referee Kris Griffiths Jones showed Melling a yellow card, but most neutrals believed the City man should have been sent off, especially given the treatment Victory’s Socceroo international Mark Milligan received after a similar incident in the match against Sydney.
On that occasion the referee took no action, but Milligan was outed by the match review panel for three weeks as a result of a probe in the days following the game.
When Erik Paartalu popped up at the other end to score a 90th-minute winner for City it only added to Muscat’s frustrations.
“I have just seen the referee’s report and it states he booked him [Melling] for a reckless elbow,” he said when asked about the clash with Broxham. “They are not my words, that’s what on the report,” Muscat declared after the game, mindful that any criticism of the official was likely to generate a fine or a censure from the FFA.
He was also bemused by the decision to rule out his side’s goal.
“I don’t know who the offside has been given against. If it’s against Bes [Besart Berisha] in the box he’s not offside.
“If its against Fahid who taps the ball in ultimately, when Bes makes contact with the ball, Fahid is outside the six-yard box, Bes is inside the six-yard box, so he can’t be offside either. And there was no flag that came up before that.
“Last week we copped a goal that was offside [Marc Janko’s opening equaliser for Sydney]. That went against us but it was allowed.
“Last week we cop a decision where the ball was out by half a yard and they score their third goal [the ball appeared to be out of play before Sydney delivered the cross that allowed Shane Smeltz to score to put the Sky Blues 3-2 up in that match]. That went against us.
“Things aren’t going for us, but we have to be better and not rely on anyone else’s decisions.”
The defeat ends Victory’s 10-match unbeaten streak and leaves them trailing runaway league leaders Perth Glory by six points.
Muscat’s men must now regroup and host the Newcastle Jets on Saturday night before entertaining the Glory on January 2.
After that there will be no easing down, despite the fact that the next match isn’t until Australia Day eve in Perth.
“What I concern myself about is commitment. This group made a commitment on first day of pre-season to give us and each other everything,” he said.
“We are not going to go away [during the Asian Cup break]. We are going to train and work hard. We will have some time off but not much; we will work through and work hard. We have got a lot to work on so we will use that time during the break.”