Confused Muscat calls for clarity from referees

Kevin Muscat and his Melbourne Victory side will take plenty of positives from their backs-against-the-wall draw with Western Sydney on Monday night, Hayden Foxe's last game in sole charge of the visitors before Josep Gombau takes over in time for Wanderers' Sunday clash with Melbourne City.

There are not many teams who could play for 70 minutes against the unbeaten Wanderers, go a goal down, have their goalkeeper save a penalty and come back to grab an equaliser.

In fact, there were times in the second half when the ten men of Victory looked as though they could get their noses in front. Some of that was owed to the commitment and fortitude shown by the hosts, some of it to the inexplicable second-half fade out of the visitors.

A man to the good and full of players who can make a difference in the final third - especially the likes of Oriol Riera??? and Roly Bonevacia??? - Western Sydney seemed to go into their shells when they failed to take two chances early after half-time.

When they should have been running over Victory they didn't dominate in the way that could be expected - something that will no doubt exercise former Adelaide United and Olyroos boss Gombau's mind as he supervises his first training sessions at his new club.

This was another game that will be remembered, however, for refereeing controversies.

Referee Peter Green had booked Victory winger Mitch Austin early in the match for a foul, but he subsequently showed him a second yellow card in the 24th minute because he did not retreat quickly enough when a free kick had been awarded to Wanderers, putting his foot up to try and block the attempt to take the set-piece quickly.

Green was also in the spotlight when he awarded a penalty after Jumpei Kusukami went to ground under a Rhys Williams challenge and then called the Video Assistant Referee into action.

The delay of almost three minutes as the VAR adjudicated was unconscionable as it meant the penalty taker, Riera, had to wait and wait before taking the spot kick.

Anyone who has ever played the game knows that having a long delay before a player can take a penalty always plants the seeds of doubt in the mind and starts to tip the odds back in the keeper's favour.

Thus it proved when Lawrence Thomas, who had an excellent game, guessed correctly, dived right and pushed the Spaniard's shot wide.

Lawrence Thomas saves a penalty kick from Oriol Riera.

Lawrence Thomas saves a penalty kick from Oriol Riera. Photo: AAP

That gave Victory a lifeline they probably weren't expecting. Muscat made a tactical tweak at half-time and galvanised his players into a storming effort which secured the point.

He also gave a debut to a player who has fast become a cult figure because of his exploits in the National Premier League Victoria, Kenjok "Kenny" Athiu, known widely by the nickname of King Kenny.

He would not have played had Besart Berisha not been suspended - nor James Troisi and Kosta Barbarouses unavailable on international duty - but needs forced Muscat's hand even though he knew it would be a big task for the newcomer.

Athiu, who has not played competitively for over a month, was clearly underdone and will take time, so any judgements on a 20-minute cameo off the bench would be unreasonable, as Muscat acknowledged afterwards.

"You can see he's physically nowhere near what's going to be required," the Victory boss said.

"We won't see the best of him for four or five weeks."

While Foxe, who will stay at Wanderers as an assistant coach, did not want to get involved in a discussion over the quality of the refereeing, Muscat was unhappy at the inconsistency of the whistleblower, who appeared to be following the letter of the law and not employing the discretion officials often use in difficult situations.

"I just want the rules to be the same for everyone, every week and every game," Muscat said.

"The players don't know ??? and I'm not defending Mitch, because after the booking you run the risk there if you stick your leg out.

"But tonight, a throw-in goes out every other game, you can take it from five or 10 yards further up the park.

"Tonight, it's got to be where the ball went out which are the rules, but other times there is discretion.

"The difference in refereeing from one week to the other - the players don't know where they stand," he said.

"If you haven't got a free kick, if you delay the start for holding the ball, it's a booking. Tonight was the first time I've seen it all season."

The Victory boss is hoping that referee boss Ben Wilson will clarify the situation.

"Even with the VAR, it's not black and white. There's still some discretion and ultimately the only thing the VAR can determine there is whether there was contact or not."

This story Confused Muscat calls for clarity from referees first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.