|By BREN O'BRIEN and JAMES WILLOUGHBY
Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou believes Saturday's emphatic 3-1 win over Sydney FC can prove the launching point for the club's challenge for the A-League's Premiers' Plate.
Victory have now moved to second on the table, five points behind leaders Central Coast Mariners, and face the other four teams currently in the top five - the Mariners, Reds, Wanderers and Heart - over the next month.
With such a stern run of matches to come, Postecoglou felt a positive result in the Australia Day clash against the Sky Blues was crucial to his hopes of reeling in the Mariners and claiming the club's first premiership in four years.
"We've been chipping away at it. I think after round four, we were three losses and one win. We're in second spot now, there's only one spot to go," the coach said.
"With nine games to go, the Mariners are going really well at the moment but we want top spot and we haven't shied away from that, that's where we want to finish. We've got a gap to bridge."
"Over the next four weeks, we meet some teams that are around and if we get through that and keep improving our play then we will make it a tight finish."
Postecoglou said the huge build up to Saturday's game - given it was Australia Day and Alessandro Del Piero's first appearance in Melbourne - meant it was a significant test of his players' composure and they came through that with flying colours.
"We're really pleased. Obviously it was a big build up to the game. We're trying to become a dominant force in the league, days like today put a question over whether you are up it or not," he said.
"Sydney were up for it, there's no doubt about it. They had a great win last week and they had some momentum."
"You look at their players in their line-up and I didn't see many who were going to be intimidated by the atmosphere, so I knew they would be a tough opponent for us."
"The fact we were able to get on top of them early and control the game is a good sign for us."
Sydney FC coach Frank Farina, meanwhile, took a realistic approach after the defeat.
Coming off the back of two successive wins – including a 7-1 thumping of Wellington Phoenix – the Sky Blues were brought down back to earth in in front of more than 26,000 fans.
Farina said he was not happy with the result, but that Sydney FC would regroup quickly and look ahead to next week's trip to Newcastle.
"I'm disappointed, don't get me wrong. But I'm not going to slit my wrists," Farina told reporters after the defeat.
"There was some positives that come out of the game. They [Sydney FC] were working hard. Against a good side at home, in front of a full house, you would expect the home team is going to put you under pressure.
"Sometimes you can overanalyse things. We'll analyse it [the result] during the week but I tend not to overanalyse. You can pick the bones out of something but all you do is frustrate yourself and confuse yourself. We lost 3-1. Big deal. We move on next week, it's another big game for us."