Melbourne Victory have a new label and this is their coach’s reaction

Catch the highlights as Melbourne Victory hosted Wellington Phoenix in the first leg of the Semi Final in Isuzu UTE A-League 2023-24.

It is set to be one big party in Wellington with an Isuzu UTE A-League Grand Final berth on the line but the message is clear from Melbourne Victory; They want to crash the party.

A bumper crowd is expected to pack into Sky Stadium for the Semi-Final return leg after Wellington Phoenix held Victory to a 0-0 draw at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Sunday evening.

The Phoenix have been the fairytale story of the season, having been tipped to finish bottom of the standings but some pundits. Wellington went on to defy the odds and end the regular season second in the standings while breaking club records along the way.

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Wellington are preparing to host their first ever Semi-Final and Victory are embracing being the antagnist across the ditch in New Zealand on Saturday, May 18.

“It’s beautiful,” Victory head coach Tony Popovic grinned in his post-match press conference when asked about his team’s tag as the “bad guy” in the looming showdown on Wellington territory.

“I feel very humbled and privileged that me as a coach, my staff and players get to do what we love doing it.

“Credit to Wellington to have a big crowd. They deserve it. They’ve had a wonderful season. The crowd should be full to support them.

“We should embrace the hostility. Enjoy every moment on the park and trust ourselves and know we’re good enough to go through.”

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Victory dominated possession after growing into the game at AAMI Park, where they had outlasted rivals Melbourne City in a dramatic Elimination Final penalty shoot-out the week prior.

But Victory – who finished third in the regular season – could not break Phoenix’s stubborn defence as they were often restricted to long-range attempts throughout the 90 minutes.

Victory have now gone four games without a win against Wellington this term (L1 D3).

“As good as we were before the game. Same position as we were before and everything is to play for,” Popovic said bullishly post-match.

He continued: “We limited them to very little although you’re always nervous because they have a lot of strength going forward on the break.

“We have to bring that resolute defensive display once more and add some spark in the final third.”

The four-time champions have the chance to reach their first Grand Final since 2018.

“We have to fine-tune a few details and get the job done over there,” Popovic told reporters.

“However we have to do it, we have to be willing to go the full distance, go to extra time, go to penalties.

“If we have to suffer, we have to suffer. That’s all part of getting to a big game and final.

“I know we will get into those positions again around the front third and I’m confident we can make some of those count.”