Spanish midfielder Albert Riera repaid Ernie Merrick for his contract extension midweek with another man-of-the-match performance as the Wellington Phoenix crushed Melbourne Victory 5-0 at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.
Merrick couldn-t pick a man-of-the-match in his media conference, saying all 13 players were outstanding, but Riera was the midfield dynamo that kept everything buzzing in a top-class display of attacking football.
Victory have always been a bogey side for the Phoenix with the Melbourne side having won the last seven clashes between the teams, which made the big win all the more satisfying for captain Andrew Durante.
“That was pretty special,” a drained Durante said.
“We-ve always found Victory tough to play against so to get five goals was very satisfying.
“We had a really good game plan. Ernie set us up in training this week to make sure we pressed them in their half.
“It was a great game plan and the players executed it perfectly.
“Everyone has worked so hard and it was a great reward for the players and fans who have stuck with us and were great tonight.
“It was a great feeling.”
Merrick, while relishing every moment as his new charges dismantled the club that sacked him after winning two titles, refused to get carried away.
“Winning a game that well was long overdue,” Merrick said.
“We-ve been threatening to do it for some time.
“Okay, we had beaten Wanderers 3-1 but tonight we dominated from end-to- end and could have scored even more.
“The challenge now will be to repeat it.”
The Phoenix next game is away to league leaders Brisbane Roar and they will have to cope without the Costa Rican duo of Carlos Hernandez and Kenny Cunningham, who played major roles in the win, as they will be away on international duty.
Hernandez opened the scoring for the Phoenix in the 18th minute with a superb low drive and Cunningham gave the home side a two-goal cushion in the 45th minute with a dipping shot from 25 metres that will be a contender for goal of the season.
If that wasn-t enough Hernandez earned a penalty in first half stoppage time and coolly converted it himself.
Hernandez was disappointed to be taken off with a calf strain after 51 minutes, missing the chance to become the first Phoenix player to score a hat-trick, but it was a wise decision by the coach.
Merrick pulled another rabbit from his hat with nine minutes remaining by replacing hard-working Tyler Boyd with out-of-sorts striker Jeremy Brockie and within four minutes Brockie had netted a lovely strike to make it 4-0.
Durante said that strike could mean the start of Brockie repeating his scoring feats of last season.
“Brocks has always remained upbeat and it was great to see that go in,” Durante said.
“That will lift his confidence and get him going again.”
Stein Huysegems turned in another 90-minute performance and was rewarded in the 88th minute with a well-executed goal for his seventh of the season.
Wellngton Phoenix:Durante, Manny Muscat, Albert Riera, Vince Lia, Kenny Cunningham, Carlos Hernandez (Matthew Ridenton 51m), Tyler Boyd (Jeremy Brockie 81m), Stein Huysegems.