Melbourne Victory have finally shaken off their early-season lethargy, easily accounting for Wellington Phoenix 3-1 at AAMI Park and moving themselves up to fifth on the Hyundai A-League table.
All three Melbourne goals came inside the first 25 minutes and all three featured the involvement of the impressive Carlos Hernandez, although none were scored by him.
Archie Thompson slotted his fifth for the season on four minutes, before a Hernandez blast was deflected into the net on 22 minutes by Vince Lia. Diogo Ferreira then added his second A-League with a well-taken shot on 25 minutes.
The margin should have been much greater, with the Victory pounding the goals for much of the remainder of the match but unable to find a fourth. There was a trio of late setbacks for the home side with Billy Celeski sent off, Thompson treated for an ankle injury and then Alex Smith scoring in the 85th minute for Phoenix.
It was undoubtedly their best win of the season to date and may prove the spark they need after registering just two wins in their first ten games. Thompson and Hernandez were excellent while Harry Kewell run of matches without an ‘in-play’ goal continued, despite a host of chances.
Wellington looked every bit the side suffering from a third match in a week, but did manage to keep it to 3-1 despite the bombardment meted out to them. They front up against Newcastle back in Auckland on Friday having been pushed back to sixth by this result.
Melbourne began the game full of purpose and had the lead after just four minutes after Thompson got on the end of a great piece of play initiated by Hernandez.
The Costa Rican picked up the ball in midfield, gave it to Thompson, who pushed it out wide left to Celeski, who then slotted a great cross for Thompson to knock in his second header in as many games.
It set the tempo for the game, and Wellington continued to play ambitious football, with Tim Brown heading wide before Leo Bertos caused Ante Covic to fumble with a close-range shot.
Kewell got involved in the game after setting up Thompson for a chance at a second on ten minutes only for Tony Warner to save, while he looked a little unlucky to get booked for simulation when he attempted to win a penalty.
Victory’s positive start looked to slow a little before Hernandez sparked things up 22 minutes in when he crashed an optimistic shot into the box and it deflected off Lia and into the net.
Three minutes later it was 3-0, and basically game over, when Kewell looped in the cross from the left, and the ball bobbled clear to Ferreira, who hit a terrific and spectacular shot into the net.
The Phoenix, playing their third match in eight days, looked a little shell shocked, but tried to lift and Smith header just over the top on the half hour.
Thompson was guilty of missing tow great chances late in the first half, the second of which saw Warner somehow deflect the ball over the bar.
Victory then had a multitude of chances to extend their lead further in between the 50th and 60th minutes, four of them falling to Kewell.
Desperate for his first goal from open play in the A-League, Kewell seemed destined to score in the 54th and 58th minute. The second one, he rounded four players in spectacular fashion, but from right in front he sprayed his shot over the top.
Somehow the Phoenix held out and they could have pinched one back when Smith again headed wide on 67 minutes. He would atone for that later in the half.
Celeski’s second booking saw him sent to the stands on 78 minutes and he will miss Friday’s Melbourne derby.
The home side’s defensive intensity dropped off and on 85 minutes, Smith easily rounded Fabio and curled the ball around Covic for a consolation goal.
Melbourne Victory 3 (Thompson 4, Lia (og) 22, Ferreira 25)
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Smith 85)
Crowd: 14,023 at AAMI Park