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A-League critics fire up Victory striker

AAP logoAAP 11/12/2016 Jason Phelan

Melbourne Victory sharpshooter Besart Berisha says recent criticism of his form was a driving force behind his match-winning A-League hat-trick against Western Sydney.

After spurning some gilt-edged opportunities recently, Berisha was on target against the Wanderers in a 3-0 win at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.

"I'm really good when the pressure is on and the critics are coming," Berisha said on Sunday.

"I think sometimes in football that just motivates you and this is what happened to me.

"It's not like I was in a big crisis, but the critics were loud and clear and they motivated me to work harder.

"I have the backing of my coach and my team and this week was important ... I'm really happy."

The 31-year-old has moved to the top of the A-League goal scorers' list for the season.

The Albanian is also set to become the leading scorer in A-League history, his eight strikes this season putting him just one goal behind former Victory teammate Archie Thompson.

"Archie, for me, is a legend in Australia ... he is a great striker," Berisha said.

"I never thought I would be close to him for scoring goals, so I'm, of course, very happy and proud that I'm so close to maybe breaking the record.

"But the older you get, you realise that the most important thing is team silverware and this is what I'm aiming for."

Coach Kevin Muscat gave critics of his star marksman a serving after the game.

"If he's up there to be criticised, well I think there's another eight or nine strikers in the country who'll be thinking 'he's doing a lot better than me''," Muscat said.

"Write him off again during the week if you all can because he loves it."

The result sets up a blockbuster local derby next Saturday night at AAMI Park, with Victory only one point behind second-placed Melbourne City with a game in hand.

City have established bragging rights over their more-celebrated rivals with wins in the A-League and an FFA Cup semi-final so far this campaign.

But Berisha denied the much-anticipated clash presents an opportunity for Victory to get some pay back.

"We don't see it this way ... we didn't play well in both of those games," he said.

"We didn't play our game and this is our focus now - to play our game. To be strong and show what we can do.

"It's really important to understand it's still a long way to go in the season ... in the end, that's where you show who is the better team, the better players, the better club."

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