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Muscat warns rising Victory will improve

NZN 18/12/2016 Emma Kemp

Kevin Muscat keeps reading that Melbourne Victory are inconsistent.

But now in second place, with a game in hand and a win finally over Melbourne City, the coach is hell-bent on expunging that tag as he ramps up the hunt for runaway A-League leaders Sydney FC.

Just as Besart Berisha's record-equalling winner told critics he's still the league's best big-game player, Victory's 2-1 derby triumph at AAMI Park proved Muscat's men can no longer be overlooked as genuine title threats.

The win - their first in five crosstown meetings - marked Victory's sixth in their last eight games and propelled them past City into second, seven points adrift of the summit after the Sky Blues trounced Perth 4-1.

With an extra game still to play against Wellington in January, the 2014-15 champions have the perfect springboard to mount their push for silverware.

But Muscat was adamant hard work throughout the season - not Saturday's drought-breaking display - had laid the platform.

"We still keep reading, 'Victory the inconsistent'," Muscat said.

"We've still got a lot of improvement in us.

"I'll identify where we can improve and I'll demand that from the playing group.

"More importantly, they want information where they can improve.

"There's a real steel in the group of players that want to be successful."

Berisha, fellow goalscorer Marco Rojas and James Troisi were instrumental in Victory's fightback after a signature Tim Cahill header.

The Albanian marksman, whose 90th A-League goal brought him level with former teammate Archie Thompson as highest-ever scorer, felt Victory were starting to play to their full capacity.

"The way we're creating chances and dominating games, collectively we're playing fantastic," Berisha said.

"This is what was missing (earlier in the season when) some players were playing fantastic and half of the team were not good.

"Now we're playing collectively great football in every area.

"When we play like that, it's very hard to stop us."

Sydney recorded their 11th successive win over stuttering Glory in a clinical come-from-behind display underlined by Danny Vukovic's heroics in goal.

Brisbane also leapfrogged City into third and on equal points with Victory after beating Central Coast 2-1, but it's over-achievers Newcastle who have added the most intrigue to the race.

The battlers from the Hunter Valley, who've endured six seasons devoid of finals action, crept into the top six via Friday night's last-gasp 2-1 home win over last-placed Adelaide.

Courtesy of Perth's third loss in four games the Jets are now fifth, ahead of the sixth-placed Glory and seventh-placed Western Sydney on goal difference.

The Wanderers continued their frustrating run by throwing away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Wellington in Auckland.

"Before the game a point is good away from home, but after you're leading 2-0 it's disappointing," said coach Tony Popovic, who again left striker Kerem Bulut out of his squad.

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