Melbourne Victory boss Grant Brebner is set to keep Robbie Kruse in a central attacking role as he attempts to protect and get the best out of the creative but injury-prone Socceroo.
Kruse's first A-League season back at Victory was plagued by hamstring issues, while a knee injury ruled him out of the 2020 restart in the NSW hub.
But following a successful appearance off the bench in Saturday night's loss to Adelaide, Kruse excelled against Perth on Tuesday in his first start since last January, going on to play 78 minutes.
"When you have players like Robbie Kruse in your team, you certainly don't want them sitting in the stands watching the game," Brebner said.
"(He) will only get better as he gets fitter, as he gets more confidence - it was another good shift from him tonight.
"Arguably I left him on probably longer than ideal but you're always thinking players like Marco (Rojas) and Krusey they just need a little bit of luck to pop up and (they) get you a goal."
With Rudy Gestede and Ben Folami both sidelined, Kruse slotted into the No.9 role with aplomb against Perth, creating attacking chances at will.
Brebner indicated he would continue to play Kruse centrally as he was wanted to limit his running compared to the heavy workload required on the wing.
"So I'm just trying to protect him," he said.
Brebner said he'd trust Kruse's judgement on his body when deciding if and how he would back up for Saturday's clash with Western United.
"I want Robbie in the team ... Robbie's load will be really managed over the next couple of days," he said.
The 2-1 comeback win over Perth got Victory off the mark and Brebner admitted the win had relieved some pressure - and would lift the club as a whole.
"Certainly there was a little bit of pressure - probably put on myself and the players probably felt a little bit of pressure as well," he said.
"We knew we'd been playing well in patches throughout our two games but tonight I felt apart from the goal we conceded we thoroughly deserved a win."
Australian Associated Press