ALW: Melbourne Victory too strong for Reds

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Melbourne Victory finally kickstarted their Liberty A-League campaign at the third time of asking, sweeping Adelaide United aside 2-0 through a dominant performance at AAMI Park on Saturday.

On the front foot from the start, Jeff Hopkins’s side eased ahead through first-half goals from McKenzie Weinert and captain Kayla Morrison and could have added more against a lacklustre United side.

Victory could have been ahead in the 12th minute when referee Izzy Blaess generously ruled that United goalkeeper Analee Grove had been impeded when Victory forced home a corner, and Grove had to be alert minutes later to repel a shot from Kurea Okino.

That chance was created by the effervescent Rachel Lowe, and the former Sydney FC midfielder set up the chance soon after from which Victory did score. Scanning the penalty area intelligently, Lowe hooked a deep pass towards the far post when Weinert stretched to toe poke past Grove.

The second goal was simplicity itself, as Alana Murphy swept in a deep freekick for Morrison to head home powerfully, and only a desperate goalline clearance from Ella Tonkin prevented Lowe from adding a third.

For Adelaide, there was only a shot from Isobel Hodgson, acrobatically tipped over by Lydia Williams, to hint at threatening their opposition, and the final whistle came as something of a relief.

The talking point

Victory had come into this game on the back of consecutive 2-1 losses despite an impressive off-season recruitment campaign, and needed to make a statement against an Adelaide side that had scored five goals in two games.

It was clear immediately that such a statement was on Victory minds, and for all the individual highlights, Hopkins is likely to have been most pleased with the structure of his side that essentially strangled Adelaide at source.

Every time United tried to play out they were suffocated by the intelligent press from Victory’s forwards, and the pressure was unrelenting through the whole game.

Late in the game Tonkin was caught close to goal without an option for a pas or even a clearance – her waved arms of frustration said everything.

The star

Rachel Lowe’s move from Sydney FC in the off-season was an eye-catching one, especially as there was an assumption that she wanted a switch overseas. Leaving the champions was a bold call, especially as Lowe revealed to KEEPUP last season that she had played much of the campaign with an exhausting post-viral condition.

At AAMI Park though she was back to her energetic best and everything good for Victory seemed to go through her. Deft passes penetrated United’s backline time and again, and Lowe was only denied a goal herself by an agile clearance off the line after Lowe had chipped Grove.

On this form, Lowe could be one of the pivotal pick-ups of the season, and Hopkins must be very pleased indeed.