Roy Krishna scored for Wellington Phoenix, but two penalties within the space of two minutes and a double booking for Dylan Fox helped Melbourne Victory to a 6-1 win in the Hyundai A-League at Etihad Stadium on Monday night.
After a slow start in Melbourne, Phoenix were hit by two penalties in quick succession that were both converted by Besart Berisha.
It became a mountain to climb when Fox was given a second yellow on the hour and while a spotkick from Krishna gave the visitors some hope, two late goals from Marco Rojas, a third for Berisha and a stoppage time strike for Mitch Austin sealed the win for Victory.
Phoenix made two changes in defence with Fox and Adam Parkhouse replacing injured duo Marco Rossi and Tom Doyle.
The visitors were looking dangerous when they broke forward early on as Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler combined before the Brazilian crossed in for Krishna who almost pulled off a sensational backheel strike.
In the 19th minute it was Victory that had the chance to take the lead when Roly Bonevacia was adjudged to have brought down Daniel Georgievski just inside the box. Berisha scored from the penalty spot to put the hosts ahead.
Just over a minute later, Phoenix conceded another spotkick as Fox was penalised for a foul on Berisha. The Albanian striker stepped up and slotted in his second penalty of the night.
Wellington worked hard to get back into the contest and began to take control of possession as well as creating some enterprising openings.
In the second half it was Phoenix that looked more likely to score and just before the hour mark Bonevacia unleashed a stinging drive from outside the box that was incredibly saved by Lawrence Thomas’ fingertips.
But just as the away side was asserting itself, Fox was given a second yellow card for a challenge on Austin and Wellington were down to 10 men.
Despite being a player down Phoenix kept at their task and were given a penalty of their own when Krishna was fouled in the area by Alan Baro.
The Fijian striker slotted home the spotkick to make it 2-1.
As Wellington pushed for the equaliser, Victory came close to taking advantage at the other end as Berisha missed a one-on-one after a free kick was deflected into his path.
Eventually the extra player made the difference as Rojas scored a third with only Glen Moss to beat 20 minutes from time, although it did appear that Adam Parkhouse was fouled by Berisha in the lead-up.
In the latter stages another goal from All Whites forward Rojas and a third of the night for Berisha, as well as an Austin stoppage time strike secured the points for Victory.
Head Coach Ernie Merrick felt the two first-half penalties proved a key turning point in the contest.
“You can’t win games if you give away two penalties and have a player sent off,” Merrick said.
“Before this game we lost Marco Rossi with an injury to his thigh and we didn’t want to risk him because it might only be a one-week injury, but had we played him he could have ended up being out for a few weeks.
“We should be playing better than we did tonight and we should have carried on where we left off last week. I think this was the only poor game we have played.
“We didn’t start to play until we had conceded two penalties and then we had the Dylan Fox send off.
“When we scored our penalty I thought we were in with a chance but we made some silly mistakes.
“We have to start winning games, starting with next Saturday’s.”