Analysis: Victory’s eye-catching start to ACL 2016

The early signs suggest Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat may have picked the correct imports for the 2016 AFC Champions League campaign.

Matthieu Delpierre was arguably Victory’s man of the match in their 2-1 win over Shanghai SIPG on Wednesday night in the Big V’s group opener. 

What’s more, Besart Berisha scored the decisive goal from the spot after Kosta Barbarouses won a penalty.

MATCH REPORT: Victory stun Shanghai SIPG in ACL thriller

GALLERY: How Victory beat Chinese Super League powerhouse

NEWS: Muscat hails Ingham’s ACL impact

While Gui Finkler and Fahid Ben Khalfallah would undoubtedly also have been important players for Muscat if he had named them in his ACL squad, critics of his initial selections may be proven wrong in the long run.

Delpierre’s composure was critical to Victory’s opening night triumph – only the second time in five campaigns that the Big V have started the ACL group stage with three points.

The veteran French defender – along with Nick Ansell – won the majority of aerial battles against Asamoah Gyan. 


Delpierre also produced a number of impressive blocks at AAMI Park when Shanghai were on top.

Berisha and Barbarouses’ influence against Shanghai wasn’t as constant as Delpierre’s but it was the foreign duo that ultimately combined to secure success.

Plus both forwards showed enough to suggest they could decide more games in the group stage.

Berisha had a couple of chances to finish Shanghai off late in the match, while his hold-up play will be important to give Victory breathing space away from home.

Barbarouses might be even more important on the road, as his pace will ensure Muscat’s men are always dangerous on the counterattack.

The Kiwi winger remains a love-hate figure for some Victory fans for not always taking his chances, but his almost telepathic understanding with right-back Jason Geria is one of Muscat’s best attacking outlets.

But it is not just Berisha, Barbarouses and Delpierre that will justify Muscat’s decisions.

Jai ingham scored a sensational opening goal for Melbourne Victory.

The impressive display of Oliver Bozanic against Shanghai and Jai Ingham’s cameo also indicated Victory could get out of the ACL group stage for the first time.

Western Sydney Wanderers’ ACL triumph in 2014 showed that quick forwards can always prove helpful on the continental stage.

Two years ago, Labinot Haliti played all 14 ACL games for the Wanderers and Kwabena Appiah made 12 appearances, despite generally being bench players in the A-League.

Coach Tony Popovic used their speed and ability to press to keep opponents on the back foot.

Young forwards Ingham, George Howard and Connor Pain could do similar jobs for Muscat throughout the ACL.

Meanwhile in midfield, Bozanic arguably produced his best game since signing with Victory.

Oliver Bozanic

The 27-year-old seemed to rise to the occasion against Shanghai – similar to how he impressed at the 2014 World Cup with the Socceroos – and could be the ideal playmaker for Muscat in away games.

Bozanic would be a more pragmatic number 10 than Finkler or Archie Thompson – who filled the role on Wednesday – but his through-ball for Ingham showed his quality.

Bozanic was also more combative when Victory were defending.

One win does not a successful ACL campaign make, but if the likes of Bozanic keep stepping up, Finkler and Ben Khalfallah may not be missed as much as first thought.