Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat heaped praise on Hume City boss Lou Acevski and his team for making the A-League champions work right to the end to ensure that they, and not the NPL Victoria team, came through the FFA Cup semi-final at AAMI Stadium on Wednesday night.
Victory will now host A-League rivals Perth Glory in the Cup final at AAMI Park on Saturday, November 7.
The 3-0 scoreline — courtesy of two late goals which made the game safe for the champions — might have flattered Victory but Muscat said nothing should take away from the performance of the part-timers from Broadmeadows who, he said, “came and played the game the right way”.
“We have to give a lot of credit to Hume and what Lou has done. They made us earn everything we got tonight, they came and played the game in the right manner. We have really had to earn that result tonight.
“I don’t think I felt threatened at all throughout the night, but I really think we have to give credit for the way Hume played. It was an excellent game and we were the better team, but we had to earn what we got tonight.”
Muscat rolled the dice with his selection, playing new signing Giancarlo Gallifuoco and starting younger players Scott Galloway, Jason Geria, Conor Pain and Jesse Makarounas.
“I thought they acquitted themselves very well. Hopefully it gives them the confidence to know they need to keep pushing,” said Muscat.
The game, in some ways, hinged on a decison by referee Ben Williams early in the match to deny Hume a penalty when a cross from Theo Markelis struck Geria on the hand.
Muscat, unusually for a coach, admitted that it would not have been a surprise had the referee pointed to the spot.
“Jason is closing the ball down, I know it’s come off some part of his body. Sometimes they are given, sometimes they are not.”
For Acevski, it was a question of so close and yet so far. Victory had the ball for long periods, but when his side was only one down with just two minutes to play, they were still in the contest with a fighting chance.
“I thought it was far from easy (for Victory), especially up to the penalty (which gave Victory the lead just before the interval). The boys did really well, they didn’t allow Victory to play their free flowing game, they closed down the space,” said Acevski, who could only rue the fact that Williams did not award the penalty.
“I believe it was a penalty… it’s one incident. Moments in football really change games. We get a penalty, we score, it’s 1-0 and Victory is really under pressure in a game they must win.
“I thought the referee gave them a lot of soft free-kicks. Is he full-time? I think he might like to do some overtime,” he quipped about Williams decision making.
Hume has won a lot of friends in their journey to the semi final, and Acevski and club officials hope to build on this success next season.
The disappointment was that only 6575 fans turned up, well below what they had hoped for.
Acevski said that had the game taken place in September, when Hume’s season had not long finished, it might have been an even tighter affair as all his players had been able to do in the interim was train, rather than play competitive matches.
“It doesn’t matter how much you train, if you are not match-fit it’s a big difference. Players pulling up with cramps, sore hamstrings. I would have loved to have played this five weeks ago.”