Melbourne Victory have defeated a youthful Atletico Madrid 1-0 in a preseason friendly in Geelong on Sunday.
Firmly on the back foot early, it was Victory who opened the scoring in the 44th minute against the run of play courtesy of Nick Ansell. Fahid Ben Khalfallah was fouled on the left-hand side by Atleti right-back Javier Manquillo and delivered an inch-perfect cross, dispatched by the centre-half.
That goal seemed to turn the game on its head, with Victory grabbing the ascendancy and leaving the understrength visitors to stay in the game.
The win means Melbourne have claimed two big scalps in preseason, defeating the Rojiblancos as well as Juventus.
— Melbourne Victory (@gomvfc) July 31, 2016
Manquillo does selection pursuit no favours – When you are behind the likes of Juanfran and Sime Vrsaljko, both of whom featured at Euro 2016, it is imperative you impress the manager when the opportunity arises.
Former Liverpool and Marseille loanee Manquillo was afforded a starting berth in Geelong by Diego Simeone with Vrsaljko left on the bench, but did not help his chances of usurping the Croat and Spain international Juanfran.
Ben Khalfallah found himself caught in a cul-de-sac in the 43rd minute but a needless foul from Manquillo afforded the Tunisian the chance to pick out a team mate with a free kick. He duly accepting the invitation, finding Ansell who opened the scoring. A moment the 22-year-old could have done without.
The impact of a goal – Before Ansell opened the scoring, the only thing standing between a sloppy Victory and falling behind was Lawrence Thomas, whose gloves were stung on multiple occasions throughout the opening stanza. The locals could seldom maintain possession and were dominated by a youthful Atletico XI.
But Ansell’s headed goal changed everything. Perfectly timed in essence, Victory headed into the sheds with heads high and re-emerged with a new lease on life, bossing the second half with crisper, tidier play, what we have come to expect from Kevin Muscat’s team.
Yet the Victory coach will take some concern from that first period, particularly with an FFA Cup clash against Newcastle Jets coming up during the week.
Geelong turns out in numbers – The three-game ICC tournament was soured somewhat by disappointing crowds across the board after last year’s first instalment set a high benchmark.
It may have been a mere pipe dream some years ago, but Victoria’s international football feast rolled into Geelong at the close of the tournament and the sleepy hollow locals responded.
Victory are no strangers in Geelong, and an impressive crowd got the turnstiles clicking again at Simonds Stadium, treated to an entertaining contest between last season’s UEFA Champions League finalists and the three-time A-League champions.