Kevin Muscat has hailed Melbourne Victory’s greatest Asian Champions League (ACL) win as a historic day for the club.
Victory was insatiable against Guangzhou Evergrande, beating World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi’s ACL title holders 2-0.
The win was just Victory’s sixth in four ACL campaigns and gives them a chance of progressing to the knock-out rounds for the first time.
But aside from beating the champions, the most startling achievement has been the hazards Victory have overcome.
Injuries, unavailability and demanding travel for both the A-League and ACL have savaged Muscat’s side in recent weeks.
And it’s worth remembering Muscat is not yet six months into his coaching career.
The rookie coach said those factors fed into the stunning performance.
“In a funny way it’s probably galvanised the group that no one gave us a chance,” he said.
Muscat said he was caught in the emotion of the win.
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say we played the current champions off the park but we were very good,” he said.
A Yokohama comeback in Group G’s other game on Tuesday night has all four sides on eight points and set to play virtual sudden-death matches next week.
“We go to Jeonbuk in our last game with our destiny in our hands,” he said.
“Certainly there’s too much to do and think about in-between that because Friday night’s very important for us now.”
Such is the congestion, however, that the greatest continental win in Victory’s history could be followed by elimination from the A-League just three days later.
That Friday night date is the small matter of an A-League finals date with arch-rivals Sydney FC.
While the differing demands of the competition and squad rotation means changes can be expected, one man whose form demands selection is James Troisi.
Troisi was the pulsating heart of Victory’s forward play, with Muscat saying “from start to finish he controlled the game”.
He capped his performance with the late sealer in injury time, throwing his shirt into the air and celebrating with his team.
“It’s an amazing achievement for us,” Troisi said after the match.
“It definitely hasn’t been easy with the travel, with all the games… but we’ve hit our strides at the right time.”
“It’s going to be difficult with a short turnaround but we’re really playing some amazing football.”
The one thing missing would be a stadium closer to capacity.
Just 13,120 fans attended the historic win, though there was no lack of atmosphere thanks to a rowdy Guangzhou fan group.
“I want a lot more (fans) on Friday and there will be,” he said.
“But more importantly on Friday I want another performance like that.”