Muscat: Getting Victory up won’t be easy
MELBOURNE Victory coach Kevin Muscat conceded he did not see Sunday's Mother's Day massacre coming and faces the arduous task of picking up his deflated players for one last dead rubber.
Victory hosts Sanfrecce Hiroshima in Wednesday week's final Asian Champions League group game after losing 6-1 in Sunday's A-League semi-final at Sydney FC.
The match will double as send-offs for retiring club great Carl Valeri and departing marquee star Keisuke Honda.
The decision to split the squad last week and leave 11 players in Melbourne while a predominantly fringe group went to South Korea to play Daegu will be dissected following an extraordinarily lethargic semi-final performance.
So too the decision not to bring captain Valeri off the bench earlier (he came on in the 68th minute with Sydney leading 4-0) to add bite to a listless midfield, perhaps even start him.
The players have been given three days off by Muscat, who attended Monday's Dolan-Warren Medal awards night in Sydney with a handful of Victory stars.
"No, no. There was no alarm bells,'' Muscat said of the mood before the semi-final.
"No excuses. Ultimately everything will be dissected now. I haven't got a problem with that, and I'll take responsibility for all of it.
"We prepared as we thought was best. And won't be looking back on any of them as an excuse.
"I don't think we can pinpoint one isolated incident.
"We're hurting. I'll personally apologise to our members and fans and take responsibility. We're a proud football club, we'll pick ourselves up and explore areas because we need to get better.
"We'll review many things, as you do on your last day. We move on and we start planning for next year.
"Congratulations to (Sydney coach) Steve (Corica). He's done a fantastic job in his first season."
Valeri, capped 52 times by the Socceroos, will want to salute the Victory faithful in style, as will Honda.
Otherwise Muscat could have an eye of the future, giving more game time to Anthony Lesiotis - a Valeri back-up - and attacker Jack Palazzolo, who came close to scoring in the 4-0 loss to Daegu.
But Muscat has an unenviable task picking up a group that has conceded 10 goals in its past two games.