Victory still challenging for second

Georg Niedermeier scored his first goal for Melbourne Victory to seal a 2-1 win over A-League bottom club Central Coast Mariners.

Victory ended their home season by rebounding from their midweek 4-0 drubbing in the Asian Champions League at the hands of Guangzhou Evergrande.

They will go into the final two rounds of the season two points behind Sydney FC in the battle a second-place finish that would earn a place in next year's Asian Champions League preliminary round.

Niedermeier delivered the win 11 minutes from time at AAMI Park as he converted a cross from Kosta Barbarouses.

Ola Toivonen had given the home side the lead, with Matt Simon levelling from the spot for the Mariners.

Keisuke Honda had a 25-yard effort well saved by keeper Ben Kennedy in the 12th minute, with the Japanese star then finding the side netting from Barbarouses' cross.

Victory went ahead with Toivonen's 12th league goal of the campaign midway through the first half, as he finished off after playing a one-two with Elvis Kamsoba in the penalty area.

Kennedy saved from Barbarouses and James Troisi before the break, but it was the Mariners who scored next when Thomas Deng tripped Simon who took the penalty himself and beat Matt Acton.

Leigh Broxham's strike flew just wide midway through the second half, with Victory then going ahead for the second time through Niedermeier.

Acton made a superb save late on to deny Stephen Mallon and preserve the home side's lead.

Coach Kevin Muscat was pleased what he saw from his team, particularly after the disappointment of their Chinese trip.

"It was a massive response from the playing group and in the end we got our just rewards with the result, but first and foremost it was a performance that gives you that opportunity," he said.

Victory are 17/10 to win their next game against Adelaide United, who are 8/5, with the draw 9/4.

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Victory boosted by’statement’ win

German defender Georg Niedermeier is glad Melbourne Victory can take some momentum into Saturday's vital clash with Sydney FC.

The game could decide which of the Big Blue rivals finishes second in the A-League and claim the reward of an Asian Champions League qualifier spot.

Victory have won their last two matches, most notably beating Perth Glory at HBF Park in their last match.

Kevin Muscat's side became only the second team to beat the league leaders all season – the others were Sydney FC in December – and it brought them to within a point of the second-placed Sky Blues.

With only three more rounds left after this, it's added extra spice to the meeting at the SCG.

Victory have won both their games against their big rivals this season and now have the chance of a sweep of wins over them for the first time.

Ola Toivonen was on target in both the meetings – a 2-1 win in Sydney in November and a success at AAMI Park in January by the same scoreline.

Niedermeier, who is back to full fitness after multiple injury concerns earlier in the season, said the win over the Glory had been significant.

"We were never off confidence to become champions, but we wanted to make a statement (in Perth) and I think we did that in a remarkable way," he said.

Speaking of the Sky Blues clash, Niedermeier said: "They're sitting one point ahead of us so we know what's coming up.

"They want to turn us over and make a better result, so we have to put everything again in it and take another third win to get them in the ladder and hopefully then we can keep second place."

Victory are 13/5 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 1/1, with the draw 5/2.

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Victory imports to stay on sidelines

Red-hot Melbourne Victory will have to wait longer to get imports Raul Baena and Georg Niedermeier back in action.

The pair will miss Saturday's A-League derby against Melbourne City at AAMI Park, skipper Carl Valeri has conceded.

Niedermeier is ruled out with an ankle problem he picked up two weeks ago when Victory beat Adelaide United.

The tall defender has also suffered two concussions since he joined the defending champions.

Valeri has indicated he and Baena, who has battled a hamstring problem for much of the season, may not be ready even for the clash with Wellington on 28th December.

"I don't think Raul will be playing and Georg might also take a couple more weeks but he's looking really good," said the skipper. "They're both training really hard; I reckon they'll be back sooner than expected."

Valeri, who missed out on a place in the first two rounds when Victory suffered back-to-back losses, will be playing his seventh consecutive game in a row.

The 34-year-old has been something of a talisman, with Kevin Muscat's side having won every match since he returned.

They know every point is crucial in their challenge with Perth Glory for top spot – the Glory ended last round with a two-point advantage, and having gone unbeaten through the opening eight rounds.

Valeri's relishing the clash with City, saying: "I love playing derbies; they're fantastic fixtures. It's a finals atmosphere mid-season – everything's harder and faster."

Victory will avoid coming up against Bruno Fornaroli, who has a record number of goals for City in the Melbourne derby but remains overlooked by coach Warren Joyce.

Victory are 11/10 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 5/2 with the draw 12/5.

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Niedermeier praise for new Socceroo Deng

Melbourne Victory defender Georg Niedermeier is pleased with the way his combination with youngster Thomas Deng has started, but feels things will keep improving.

The defending champions have clicked into gear in the past two games, after suffering home defeats in the opening two rounds.

The defensive combination of 32-year-old Niedermeier and Deng, who is 11 years younger, has looked strong since coach Kevin Muscat turned to them after the 3-2 defeat to Perth Glory.

The only goal Victory have conceded in the past two games was a consolation effort to Central Coast in the 4-1 win at AAMI Park last weekend.

German veteran Niedermeier, who spent almost a decade in the Bundesliga, is impressed with the potential of Deng.

The youngster has done well enough to earn his first Socceroos cap in the last game against Kuwait, and Niedermeier feels there's plenty of improvement to come from him.

"Physically he's very strong, he's quick, he has a good technique," he said. "He can still improve on parts of his play in some situations; I always watch the videos afterwards and speak with him.

"There are a couple of situations we can solve better, but it will come with games. He had to switch a couple of times in pre-season from right-back to centre-back, which is not easy because the positions are very different; but I think from his status he is very good."

Another Victory player to have impressed Niedermeier is Japanese star Keisuke Honda, who has scored two goals in his first four league games including the opener against the Mariners.

The German said Honda's quality on the pitch was there for all to see and he was very calm on the ball.

"As soon as he's on the ball it gets dangerous," he added. "Of course the teams try to avoid this and double him, so it's not easy for him."

Melbourne Victory are 9/2 to win the Grand Final.

Victory are 23/10 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 21/20 with the draw 13/5.

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