Melbourne Victory leapt to the top of the A-League table and inflicted a second consecutive home loss on Wellington Phoenix with a 3-0 win in New Zealand’s capital.
Melbourne dominated the game from the moment they took the lead inside the first minute and despite not adding to that tally in the first half, were able to double their lead on the hour-mark and extend it shortly afterwards.
It was a statement of real intent from Kevin Muscat’s men, who placed themselves firmly in pole position for the Premier's Plate and served notice on one of their closest challengers for the 2014-15 A-League title.
WHAT THEY SAID
“We had the opportunity to keep ourselves right up there and break away from the bunch a little bit. To be at home two weeks in a row and lose 3-0 both times is extremely disappointing.” - Wellington Phoenix captain Andrew Durante
“It's never easy to travel here and obviously with them losing like they did last week we knew they were going to be up for it. I think we came out from the first whistle, first half and showed our intent straight away.” - Melbourne Victory's Archie Thompson
1-0 Gui Finkler (1')
Many of the crowd were still taking their seats when Gui Finkler received a pass from Besart Berisha just inside the penalty area and finished coolly past Glen Moss to open the scoring.
2-0 Andrew Durante OG (59')
Phoenix midfielder Alex Rodriguez gave up possession cheaply in his own half, allowing Berisha to run deep into Phoenix territory. His square pass was aimed for Finkler, but was instead prodded past his own goalkeeper by Durante.
3-0 Archie Thompson (66')
A left-wing corner was volleyed sweetly towards goal by Fahid Ben Khalfallah. Thompson prodded the ball goalwards, and when it was cleared off the line by Nathan Burns back into his path, he made no mistake to bury the rebound.
Victory showed they meant business from the first whistle, scoring one of the quickest goals of the A-League season after just 34 seconds. It immediately put them on the front foot and asserted a dominance they never relinquished.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Victory had 60 percent of possession and played 170 more passes than the Phoenix. This allowed them to fashion 15 attempts on goal, nine of which were on target.
Costa Rican Kenny Cunningham so nearly had the Phoenix back on level terms early in the second half. His turn away from a defender and move into space were sublime, and his powerful shot seemed destined for the back of the net before Nathan Coe intervened with a superb save.
The Phoenix were gaining a foothold in the match as the game ticked towards the hour-mark, but Rodriguez’s cheap giveaway which led to Victory’s second goal doubled the deficit and made the mountain too steep to climb.
Phoenix striker Joel Griffiths landed awkwardly in the first half and suffered what looked to be a serious knee injury which has almost certainly ruled him out for the rest of the season.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Back-to-back home losses and no goals in over 200 minutes of football mean some head-scratching for Ernie Merrick. He’ll need every ounce of his tactical and motivational powers to re-focus his charges for a final tilt at the top two.
THE FINAL WORD
Melbourne Victory looked every inch the champions-elect during a game they dominated for long periods.
Even with Berisha kept relatively quiet by Michael Boxall, the visitors had more than enough firepower to score for the 12th straight match and record consecutive wins for the first time since early December.
The Phoenix badly missed the suspended Albert Riera in front of an also depleted back four, and failed to break down a Victory defensive line superbly marshalled by Matthieu Delpierre.
Wellington Phoenix: Moss, Fenton, Boxall, Durante, Muscat, Rodriguez, Bonevacia, McGlinchey (Hicks), Burns, Krishna, Griffiths (Cunningham).
Melbourne Victory: Coe (Thomas), Broxham, Ansell, Delpierre, Georgievski, Milligan (Mahazi), Valeri, Finkler, Ben Khalfallah, Berisha, Thompson (Barbarouses)
Scorers: Finkler, Durante (own-goal), Thompson
Red cards: n/a
Yellow cards: Phoenix: Bonevacia, Burns; Melbourne Victory: Finkler, Milligan
Conditions: Clear, calm, 18 degrees