Victory skipper highlights key reason behind frustrating first leg Semi-Final draw

Melbourne Victory captain Roderick Miranda believes anxiety got the better of his side as they played out a goalless draw with Wellington Phoenix in the first leg of their Isuzu UTE A-League Semi-Final clash at AAMI Park.


Victory had plenty of the ball on Sunday evening but failed to really test Wellington goalkeeper Alex Paulsen, as the visitors left Melbourne with their 100th A-League Men clean sheet and plenty of belief heading into the home leg of the Semi-Final at Sky Stadium on Saturday, May 18.

“They showed during the entire season it’s (Wellington) a difficult team to beat,” Victory captain Roderick Miranda told Network 10 after the game.

“They’re really comfortable defending deep so we need to have a lot of patience. I think we had (it) in the first half, second half I think the players felt a little bit anxious.

He continued: “It’s normal, it’s a semi final, the fans were pushing for us. But yeah, like it’s 0-0 everything is still open for the second leg. But like I said, (they’re) a tough team to beat but we’ll see. We’ll still have another game to try to prove ourselves.”

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While the scores may be level heading into the second leg it’s the visitors who will arguably be the happier side ahead of the return meeting at Sky Stadium, where it’s hoped close to 25,000 supporters will be in attendance as the club hosts it’s first ever home Semi-Final.

Further fuelling their belief of reaching the Isuzu UTE A-League Grand Final is the fact the ‘Nix put on another solid defensive display at AAMI Park as they kept their 12th clean sheet of the campaign and their 100th in A-League Men history.

However, while the opposition’s defensive rigidity would no doubt have impressed Miranda, the Victory centre-back believes the onus will be Giancarlo Italiano’s side to change the way they play, especially in front of their own fans.

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“More speed on the ball maybe,” said Miranda when asked what Victory needed to do better in the second leg. “Play one, two touch, try to shoot more often. We took a lot of time to shoot and yeah, they are really comfortable.

“They defend with a lot of numbers in the back but now I think as well they need to play a little bit further upfront in the next game… maybe we can have more chances to break them as well.

He added: “But yeah, I think it’ll be a really good second leg. A good game between two great teams. It’s 0-0, still everything open and everybody’s still positive.”

With three draws from their previous four meetings it’s likely to be another cagey affair in Wellington on Saturday May 18.

However, while the backing of a raucous crowd in New Zealand will no doubt give the Phoenix the psychological edge in the fixture, captain Alex Rufer doesn’t buy into the narrative that the ‘Nix are now favourites to progress to the final.

“I wouldn’t say that,” said the Wellington skipper when speaking to Network 10. “I think for us now we just need to make sure we focus on getting a win at home.

“We’ll take the draw, but yeah, look, we’re pretty satisfied tonight. I think for us, we always try to make sure that we make it difficult for the other team.”

Despite Italiano’s side increasing their already impressive clean sheet tally this season the draw at AAMI Park means Wellington have now gone 21 games without a win at the venue and Rufer believes there’s plenty for them to improve on heading into the second leg.

“I think for us next week, we need to be a lot better with the ball, be a lot braver.

He continued: “But as I said, look very proud of the team. We’ll take a draw here. It’s never easy to get a to get a win. So we’ll take a draw and we move on.”

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The winner of the clash two-legged tie will now face either Central Coast Mariners or Sydney FC in the Isuzu UTE A-League Grand Final, with reigning premiers and defending champions Mariners currently in the box seat to progress through to the final after defeating Sydney FC 2-1 in the first leg at Allianz Stadium.

Should the Mariners defeat the Sky Blues in Gosford on Saturday night then they will host either Wellington or Melbourne Victory in the final due to the fact Mark Jackson’s side finished top of the Isuzu UTE A-League in the regular season.