Victory ‘villains’ out to destroy Wellington fairytale

Shayne Hope |

Defender Jason Geria (front) believes Melbourne Victory can cause an upset in New Zealand.
Defender Jason Geria (front) believes Melbourne Victory can cause an upset in New Zealand.

No strangers to being cast as “villains” in an A-League Men fairytale, Melbourne Victory are embracing the tag yet again as they seek to dash Wellington’s dreams of silverware.

The Phoenix are aiming to end a run of 17 trophy-less years since inception, riding a wave of momentum and support in their first season under popular coach Giancarlo Italiano.

And Bulgarian attacker Bozhidar Kraev has claimed the semi-final tie is weighted in their favour ahead of Saturday’s second leg at Sky Stadium, following a scoreless draw in Melbourne.

Victory have not beaten Wellington in four attempts this season (one loss, three draws), but right-back Jason Geria believes the visitors are primed to cause an upset on foreign soil.

“It would be naive if they were to think it’s going to be straightforward for them just because they’re at home,” Geria told reporters on Wednesday.

“We definitely don’t think that’s the case, and going off this game here (in Melbourne), it was another tight affair, as a semi-final typically would be.

“But I believe in this group and I know going over there it’s going to be a different type of game with a lot on the line.

“We have the players that are up for it and the quality in the squad, and I think we’re going to show up on the day, so I’m very confident.”

Wellington’s pursuit of a first trophy has garnered plenty of support among neutral fans, and Geria noted four-time ALM champions Victory are widely regarded as the club others love to hate.

But the experienced defender said Tony Popovic’s side won’t be bothered by the familiar position.

“We’re not really worried about the storyline, and if we’re the villains that’s fine. It’s good to be the villains sometimes,” Geria said.

“Normally when we go to away environments … we’re already the villains, so to speak.

“A lot of the league already has a level of disdain for us.”

Victory dropped points via late goals on both previous trips to Wellington this season.

An Alex Rufer penalty earnt the Phoenix a draw in January, and Roderick Miranda’s own goal gifted the home side all three points last month.

“It’s been an achilles heel for us … but it’s a semi-final second leg, a different type of game, and I don’t think history of prior encounters really comes into it,” Geria said.

“If that’s on your mind, you’re already behind the eight-ball.

“So that’s in the past for us and we know what we have to do over there.”

Phoenix striker Bozhidar Kraev (right).
Phoenix striker Bozhidar Kraev (right) says the home crowd will be a “massive” advantage. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Earlier on Wednesday, Kraev claimed the scoreless draw in the first leg was a “very good result” for Wellington and tipped the home crowd will be a “massive” advantage for the Kiwi side in the second leg.

“Now, more or less, everything is in our hands,” Kraev said.

“With no disrespect to Melbourne Victory, I think now the chances are a little bit in our favour, maybe 60-40 to us.

“(The crowd) is why I distinguish it’s maybe a little bit in our favour.

“The crowd, the home stadium … that’s what makes the difference, and we will try to use it in our favour.”