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Jan 24, 2011

Merrick defends Victory's style

Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick returned fire at Heart chief Scott Munn, saying he finds it incredible the Heart are claiming the high moral ground.

Victory captain Kevin Muscat's brutal tackle which ended Adrian Zahra's season because of knee-ligament damage has led to a war of words between two-time champions the Victory and their new cross-town rivals.

Munn says his team were playing far more attractive football on Saturday than their opponents and he claimed the Heart left the drawn game with a moral victory.

"Regarding their CEO coming out and having a go at us, I find that quite incredible. For six years we have played attractive football," Merrick said on Tuesday.

"We've scored more goals than anyone in the league and we've never been the sort of team that has relied on tough defensive play."

Merrick said Muscat, who faces a lengthy ban when he attends a tribunal hearing on Thursday, had laid a "very ordinary" tackle.

"Kevin's Kevin, he'll never change," Merrick told SEN Radio.

"But our football has been all about attacking play.

"In the first two games against the Heart, they committed twice as many fouls against us and they had a player sent off in the first match.

"Wayne Srhoj their player has more yellow cards than anyone.

"So how their CEO can come out and say some of these things, I expect educated people will look at these facts, and what we've done over six years and what we've tried to achieve and the football we've tried to play."

Merrick said the sixth-placed Heart had done a good job in their debut season under coach John van 't Schip.

But Merrick added: "Their CEO is having a go and I think he's out of order.

"I wouldn't know why he wouldn't focus on his young player and his rehabilitation and what they're trying to achieve at the club rather than have a go at us, inaccurately," Merrick added.

Merrick said Muscat admitted he had done the wrong thing and had apologised to Zahra by phone.

But he said the Victory's record on fouls compared well with other teams this season.

"So when someone comes out with an emotional statement like that, I can't help think there's an ulterior motive behind it," Merrick said, dismissing speculation Victory's fans were considering swapping shirts for the red and white of the Heart.

Merrick said his side's game on Wednesday in Townsville against bottom side North Queensland Fury would be crucial to the fifth-placed Victory's finals hopes.

"This is a time when players have to stand up and be counted and I think we've got those type of players in our side," Merrick said.

The Victory will be boosted by the return of Adrian Leijer from a quadricep injury, while striker Archie Thompson remains unavailable with a hamstring complaint.

Meanwhile goalkeeper Justin Pasfield said the Fury had "totally forgotten" last weekend's 8-1 loss to Adelaide United.

"I just think that's the best thing we can do, put that out of our minds and really concentrate on Wednesday," he said.

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