Analysis: Why late goals are hurting Victory

Late goals have cost Melbourne Victory five points in the Hyundai A-League in February, further emphasising their struggles without captain Carl Valeri.

The reigning champions have notched three draws and a defeat in their past four games, with Saturday night’s 1-1 against 10-man Sydney FC the latest example of a missed opportunity. 

Victory have seemingly lost the ability to grind out results since Valeri last played in Round 8.

The skipper has been ruled out for the rest of the 2015-16 campaign due to an illness that has affected his balance, and based on the statistics, his health issue is likely to cost Muscat’s side silverware.

Carl Valeri battles for possession with Michael McGlinchey

In Valeri’s absence, Victory are significantly less likely to hold on for a win when they score first or fight back to avoid defeat when the opposition opens the scoring.

Since the 31-year-old defensive midfielder last pulled on the boots in a 2-1 win over Adelaide United in November, the Big V have picked up just 14 points from a possible 42 to slip from first position to fifth with six games remaining.

The Big Blue was yet another example of Victory’s fragility, with the home side conceding a 76th-minute equaliser to David Carney after Sydney centre-back Jacques Faty was sent off 12 minutes earlier.

10-man Sky Blues hold Victory in tense Big Blue

In their games against Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United in February, Victory were denied a win and a draw, respectively, after letting in very late goals to Brendon Santalab and Bruce Kamau.

Since Valeri joined Victory before last season, the club have won 74 per cent of games – barring finals – when scoring first and lost 53 per cent when conceding first.

With Valeri involved, Victory have won 80 per cent of matches when scoring first and lost 30 per cent when conceding first.

Without the former Socceroos midfielder, Victory have won 57 per cent when scoring first and lost 67 per cent when conceding first.

One area Muscat has been very focused on this season has been controlling games for longer periods, but without Valeri, Victory’s midfield has been unable to meet their coach’s demands.

Oliver Bozanic has lacked the steel to match Valeri’s defensive output, while Rashid Mahazi and Leigh Broxham’s passing has generally been inferior to Victory’s captain.

Victory midfielder Oliver Bozanic fights for the ball with Sydney FC playmaker Milos Ninkovic.

All this serves to highlight how big of an error it was by Victory not to sign an Asian guest player in the January transfer window.

Victory could have signed an experienced international player for a 14-game A-League stint outside the salary cap, while also including them in their AFC Champions League squad under the 3+1 rule, but instead only brought in winger Jai Ingham from Hume City.

Finding the right player to match Football Federation Australia’s guest player criteria would not have been easy but if Victory miss out on A-League silverware, Muscat and Football Operations Manager Paul Trimboli may wonder if they did enough to fill the hole left by Valeri.