It took eight games for Robbie Kruse to register his first A-League start in his Melbourne Victory return but for the player and club, it proved worth the wait.
The Socceroo's first five weeks of his A-League return were spent on the sidelines - with Kruse revealing on Friday night he'd suffered three recurring injuries in the same hamstring.
But after two promising cameos, Kruse started against Perth Glory and delivered a statement performance, scoring the matchwinning goal - his first in a Victory shirt since 2011 - and showing the creativity and guile that made him such a valuable acquisition.
"Robbie's a special player for every club in Australia and (he's) a special player in the league and when he's fit, he can make the difference," Victory coach Marco Kurz said post-match.
Kruse's crunching early challenge on Ivan Franjic ensured he'd set the tone for a gritty, well-worked win, while later in the game he seized the opportunity to wind up Perth skipper Diego Castro, summing up how he'd frustrated the Glory.
"Obviously I really enjoyed my time (here) and Victory really helped me, set me up for the career I had in Europe and with the national team so I was really excited to come back and really perform for the club," Kruse said post-match.
"It's been disappointing not being able to help the team, especially when we've been going through some tough times, so I'm really happy with the win tonight."
A conversation between coach and player on Tuesday - with Victory under pressure - determined Kruse would start Friday's crunch match, with the Socceroo lasting 88 minutes.
"We were under a lot of pressure so I was really happy to start," Kruse said.
"I think it's probably better coming back that I'm starting, it's harder getting into the game when you're coming off the bench so I had two games off the bench and I thought I'd probably get through at least 60 (minutes) but I surprised myself, I was feeling quite good."
The 1-0 victory eased the pressure on Kurz and Kruse said the players had taken it upon themselves to lift their standards and intensity after a poor start.
"I've got a really good connection with Marco - obviously he's German and I lived in Germany 10 years," Kruse said.
"So I was really feeling for him and he never showed to us that he was under pressure, he always protected us players and that's what good managers do.
"He wore the brunt of everything and I'm really happy with the way the team reacted and fought for him and the coaches and hopefully we can build on that."