Melbourne Victory surged back into form with a 2-1 win over a hugely-depleted Brisbane Roar that was timely as they prepare to meet hometown rivals Melbourne City.
After weeks of mounting pressure on coach Kevin Muscat, the visitors exploded out of the blocks with two early goals through Rhys Williams and Kosta Barbarouses at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday. But Victory had to stave off a fast-finishing Roar to secure their third win of the season, which lifts them to fifth on the A-League ladder ahead of next weekend's Melbourne derby.
"Naturally when things aren't going well... you're going to come under scrutiny," Muscat said. "The focus all week was purely about putting in a performance we can be proud of."
Williams silenced the crowd early with a bullet of a header in the 12th minute off a Leroy George corner -- his first goal since scoring for Middlesbrough against Derby County in the English Championship more than six years ago.
George was again the provider seven minutes later as Victory went 2-0 up. The lively Dutchman slid a delightful ball across from the left flank and it was weighted perfectly to leave Barbarouses with the simplest of finishes.
It could have been much worse for the Roar were it not for a series of strong interventions from goalkeeper Jamie Young, who made four saves in the first half alone including one from point-blank range denying Barbarouses a brace.
Massimo Maccarone pegged one back for Brisbane in the 56th minute, tucking home a great angled ball from Matt McKay to bring the home side back into it. But the Roar couldn't find another despite a late rally in front of 10,225 supporters.
Former Roar premiership winner Besart Berisha thought he'd scored the sealer for Victory in the dying moments. But his goal was controversially chalked off by video assistant referee Kris Griffith-Jones, who spotted a handball earlier in the build-up.
Young attacker Daniel Leck made an energetic debut off the bench for Brisbane, replacing Petros Skapetis, who limped off in the second half with a quad issue.
The Roar were already without an incredible nine first-team players -- the latest casualties being Joe Caletti (foot), Nick D'Agostino (ankle) and Corey Gamiero (illness), who were withdrawn earlier on Sunday. Caletti is expected to miss up to three months with a stress fracture, prompting coach John Aloisi to call in experts to determine the root cause of their lengthy injury list.
Aloisi found a silver lining in the Roar's "outstanding" second half and the performances of youngsters Rahmat Akbari and Daniel Leck, the latter making his A-League debut.
"The result wasn't there. But the way the boys fought, the football that we played in the second half... look at the young boys coming through," Aloisi said. "If you can't be excited about that I don't know if you're a real true football follower."