It was no Lisa De Vanna, no Melina Ayres, no Angie Beard or Annalie Longo for Melbourne Victory on a balmy Sunday afternoon at AAMI Park.
Former captain Beard was busy filling the airwaves with analysis of her ex-teammates. Football icon De Vanna had lined up the night prior for Perth Glory, her new home announced just days earlier.
The injured Ayres had the best seat in the house in the stands alongside new American signing, Lynn Williams. Aussies already got a good look at what the USWNT star can do on home soil just last week.
This was a team playing without those two, easily starting XI players. A team that won by four goals, and barely broke a sweat.
With that mind, take in the words of the players and coaches and let them sink in fully.
Coach Jeff Hopkins described his side’s work without the ball as not “really good enough for us”. Dynamic midfielder Kyra Cooney-Cross called the performance “rusty”.
These are the standards of a championship-winning team. A team that doesn’t rest on its laurels, and makes no excuses for any mistakes made.
Despite carting skipper Kayla Morrison off the ground with no substitute replacing her, the Victory midfield clinically picked apart whatever Adelaide United could throw at them to create a corner.
Executing a set piece from a corner, they found another score through centre-back Claudia Bunge. Victory went 3-0 up with 10 women on the pitch.
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Victory nearly drew equal to the score of every other of the weekend’s victorious A-League Women sides combined, their five goals compared to the six of Melbourne City, Sydney FC, and Perth Glory.
“We were quite clinical in front of goal which was great, we capitalised on a few mistakes which was good,” Hopkins told media post-game.
“Great to win the game and by the margin we did, excellent, it’s a kind of dream start for us.”
At an absolutely fundamental level, the scale of the win in the context of the season is already one Victory can take in.
With its growth to a 10-team competition, every team in the A-League Women will play 14 games this season. Only playing five teams twice though, wins are just as important as ever.
Canberra United, who finished fourth and claimed the last finals spot in 2020/21, scored 21 goals in its 12 games. Melbourne has already nearly made a quarter of that tally in 90 minutes.
Melbourne Victory was already the third highest scoring team last season. The reigning champions managed to score over five goals three times, including in the semi-final against Brisbane.
This year, they’ve managed to put on a scoring clinic without last year’s contributors; Ayres (five goals in 11 games), and Longo (three goals in eight games). Cooney-Cross (four goals in 11 games) completed an assist, but no score of her own.
The only concern from the scoring group came from captain Morrison, who looked to have hurt her knee in the 21st minute.
“I know what it’s like as a player, to have a knee injury you think the worst possible scenario,” Hopkins said.
“We don’t know what’s the matter with it so we just need to let the doc have a look at it, most probably get it scanned as soon as we can tomorrow and then we’ll have a better idea, a more informed judgment of what’s gone on there.”
Some may argue that you might not even need your star strikers when you’re scoring twice from centre back.
Likewise, the young guns held their own. Fullbacks Polly Doran and Courtney Nevin look like veterans already. Paige Zois and Alana Murphy didn’t look off the pace when they were subbed despite holding a fistful of senior games between them.
If a team can announce their intentions of going back-to-back without saying it, Melbourne Victory has just done so.
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