Melbourne Victory conjured an hour of the sort of football expected under Ange Postecoglou to claim a lobsided 3-2 win over Wellington Phoenix.
Melbourne Victory conjured an hour of the sort of football expected under Ange Postecoglou to claim a 3-2 win over Wellington Phoenix.
Predicted by history and pioneered by Victory’s South American duo, the hosts blew the Phoenix away early and then held on late to clamber from the foot of the Hyundai A-League table.
Phoenix had never won in Melbourne, and they seemed further than ever when former winger Marco Rojas and Marcos Flores put the hosts up 2-0 by half-time.
Another goal to Rojas seemed to seal Victory’s second victory of the season, before a late Phoenix fightback – featuring Jeremy Brockie’s outstanding double – inevitably ran out of time.
The hosts had stand-out performances across the pitch, but it was a result largely built on the craft of pairing Flores and Guilherme Finkler.
Like their side, Argentine Flores and Brazilian Finkler had shown glimpses of their quality this season without ever really convincing.
But the signs better times are ahead for Victory were there from the eighth minute, when Finkler and Flores combined in midfield for the former to guide a through ball into Archie Thompson’s path.
The shot went wide, with Flores getting behind the Phoenix defence himself soon after Milligan’s header caught the visitors flat-footed. An uncharacteristically heavy touch sent the ball too close to Paston, however.
Victory had made a positive start to the match, appearing quick on transition and neat and tidy in traffic.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert would have feared deja vu when Boxall – replacing the suspended Sigmund after his controversial red card against Adelaide United in Round 4 – held back Thompson as the Victory veteran attempted to get through on goal.
But referee Shaun Evans adjudged there to be enough cover in the Phoenix defence to only warrant a yellow card.
Thompson had his second chance of the game when Mark Milligan’s lightning ball across the goalmouth just evaded him on 15 minutes, while Phoenix carved out their best chance of the match yet just seconds later after Louis Fenton’s superb ball from the right curled just past Stein Huysegems.
Soon after, however, it was 1-0, when Finkler’s through ball found Thompson wide on the right.
Presented with a one-on-one chance with Paston, the Australia international instead elected to send a perfect ball across the goalkeeper and two defenders for Rojas to tap home.
Thompson and Brockie then brought saves out of their opposing goalkeepers, before Flores put the Victory up 2-0 with goal started, finished and drenched with South American flair.
Retrieving the ball from the right, Flores and Finkler traded two passes apiece before the former finished with the outside of his right foot.
The second goal had been coming, but few of the 20,683 in attendance could have predicted it would have the quality it did.
One minute into the second half, Milligan’s ball ensured Thompson again found a galaxy of space behind the Phoenix defence, and – in almost a doppelganger of Victory’s opener – his precise ball across goal ensured an easy tap in for Rojas.
Application had not been in question for Thompson over a 13-game scoreless streak in the A-League, but he again showed his finishing was still somewhat off when he spooned a cut-back from Flores high and wide from close range on 51 minutes.
That could have put the game to bed. Instead, the ensuing flurry of substitutions helped Phoenix and hindered Victory.
First Finkler and then Flores were brought off by Postecoglou, stymying the hosts’ attacking flair.
Conversely, the injection of Benjamin Totori for the Phoenix proved crucial to their attempts to save the game.
The Solomon Islands international was integral in the Phoenix’s brightest spell of the game, which included chances for fellow substitute Tyler Boyd and Boxall – the latter of who drew a superb save out of Coe – before Brockie’s superb first goal in the 81st minute.
He sent an unstoppable shot past Coe from outside the area after having been fed by the increasingly lively Totori, and then made it a double when his free-kick as extra-time ticked over was clawed out by the Victory goalkeeper only after it crossed the line.
But time beat the Phoenix, with Victory’s win certainly not the most impressive of win the weekend – the Central Coast Mariners’ 7-2 smashing of Sydney FC saw to that.
But it did provide a glimpse – for at least an hour – of exactly what Victory are capable of producing under Postecoglou.
Bet365.com Man of the Match: Marcos Flores
The Argentine looked back to his best during the first 60 minutes and scored the best goal of the season so far.
Melbourne Victory 3 (Rojas 23; Flores, 38′; Rojas, 48′)
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Brockie, 80′, 90′)
Crowd: 20,683 at Etihad Stadium.