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Jan 30, 2011

Leijer stands up for Victory

Stand-in skipper Adrian Leijer has denied Melbourne Victory are a dirty side as debate continues to rage whether they are the bully-boys of the A-League.

Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg and captain Michael Thwaite let rip at the Victory after their side's 2-0 loss at AAMI Park on Sunday night, saying their tactics were brutal and intimidatory.

It follows the universal condemnation of captain Kevin Muscat's shocking challenge on Melbourne Heart player Adrian Zahra a week earlier which left the midfielder needing knee surgery and Muscat banned for eight matches.

But Leijer, heavily name-checked by Bleiberg in his post-match tirade for some questionable tackling, said the match was no more physical than any other and denied the Victory deliberately set out to brutalise other teams.

"What he's come out and said is quite ridiculous," Leijer said on Monday.

"In the change-rooms this morning the players are all pretty much laughing at it.

"Over the six years of the A-League we've played some of the best football.

"We're proud of the way we play. By no means do we play brutal (football).

"We'll go out there and keep playing our good football, and when we get guys like Archie (Thompson) and Robbie (Kruse) back hopefully we're talking about the skills of those guys."

The Victory believe Bleiberg's comments were made with an agenda in mind - to apply pressure to referees as the teams face a likely match-up in week one of the finals.

Statistics show the Victory - at least in the referees' eyes - are not a dirtier-than-average side.

The Victory have only committed more fouls than their opposition in eight of 28 matches this season.

"If he's trying to get referees on his side for when we play them in the finals - maybe that's what he's doing," Leijer said.

"The referees are doing a good job. They're smarter than that and they won't be drawn into it.

"(The comments) are unfair, and as a club we've stood up to a tough week and we'll continue to do that."

Victory striker Danny Allsopp believes the players have responded to the Muscat controversy positively - as shown by maximum points in their two matches since.

And he said Muscat's plight and standing within the club had fuelled the Victory's motivation to succeed following arguably the most tumultuous period in the club's history.

"Kevin's a friend of ours, he's been the most important person at this club since it began and a lot of our success has been due to Kevin," Allsopp said.

"Every person here's learned something from Kevin. He's made me better on and off the pitch.

"That's certainly given us a little bit of motivation to try and focus our minds."

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