Robbie Kruse proved the hero as Melbourne Victory kickstarted their ailing A-League season with a crucial 1-0 win over Perth Glory at AAMI Park.
In his first start since returning to the club that launched his career, Kruse set the tone with a clattering challenge on Ivan Franjic.
The Socceroo maintained that intensity throughout a dominant performance highlighted by scoring the matchwinner.
While Victory’s performance wasn’t completely convincing on Friday, it should ease the pressure on boss Marco Kurz – whose image on the big screen pre-game attracted a rumbling of boos from a small section of the 13,084-fan home crowd.
The Victory coach had emphasised the need for his team to get back to basics after a lacklustre loss to Adelaide and from the opening minutes, there was clearly an improved intent and aggression about his side.
Victory’s night got complicated before it even began.
Storm Roux was a late withdrawal with illness, with youngster Brandon Lauton expected to replace him at right-back.
Then Lauton pulled up with back tightness during the warm-up and was in turn replaced by Anthony Lesiotis.
Those pre-game setbacks didn’t seem to affect the Victory, who dominated the early exchanges as the much-vaunted attacking trio of Kruse, Ola Toivonen and Andrew Nabbout looked threatening.
After dominating proceedings for half an hour, the breakthrough came in the 33rd minute.
Jakob Poulsen found Adama Traore, who hesitated on the ball for a moment and whipped a cross through a cluster of players to meet Nabbout at the back post.
He turned on the ball but found enough control to slide it across goal for Robbie Kruse to tap home ahead of Gregory Wuthrich.
Perth regained a foothold in the match after halftime, with Bruno Fornaroli wriggling free of Leigh Broxham to hit the post in the 50th minute; Alex Grant’s header clipped the bar 10 minutes later.
While Perth dominated possession, Victory seemed largely content to soak up pressure and play on the counter.
Kruse was applauded from the field in the 88th minute before celebrations intensified to mark Victory’s second win of the season.