Melbourne Victory has bounced back to form in emphatic fashion, cruising past Wellington Phoenix 3-0 in an entertaining Hyundai A-League clash on Monday night in front of almost 25,000 fans.
A goal in either half to striker Besart Berisha and an Andrew Durante own goal were enough for Victory to return to the winner’s circle at Etihad Stadium.
Berisha’s brace means he has now scored eight goals in just 11 appearances against the Phoenix and sees Victory leapfrog Wellington into fourth on the table.
It’s the ideal tune up for Victory, who will now look to complete a calendar-year treble by winning the Westfield FFA Cup against Perth Glory on Saturday night.
1-0 Berisha (10’) – A Phoenix turnover allowed Gui Finkler to pick up possession 25 metres from goal and he drew a defender before releasing Berisha into the box. The Albanian stepped inside of Vince Lia before rolling into the net with a calm finish.
2-0 Durante (og) (55’) – Barbarouses was given too much time on the right, taking the ball inside the box before sending in a low cross. His centre took a wicked deflection off Durante’s leg and snuck in past ‘Keeper Glen Moss at the near post.
3-0 Berisha (61’) – Berisha sprung the offside trap to be clear through on Moss’ goal. He tried to take the ball around the Phoenix ‘keeper and hit the deck as he appeared to be clipped. But Berisha had the presence of mind to still poke the ball into an empty net while on the ground.
After surviving a couple of close scares after going behind in the first half, Phoenix had a great chance to draw level six minutes before half-time. Jeffery Sarpong burst forward from midfield and then played a brilliant defence-splitting pass to send Roy Krishna through on goal.
The Fijian took the ball around Victory ‘keeper Danny Vukovic and was pounced to shoot before Carl Valeri came from nowhere to slide in and clear the danger.
The Victory skipper had to time it correctly or it most certainly would have been a penalty and red card. It allowed Victory to retain their lead at the break and they went on with the job in the second half.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Wellington’s penchant for slow starts this season continued, conceding the first goal now in all four games this season.
Victory’s win continues their recent dominance over Phoenix, now prevailing in 11 of the last 13 clashes between the two clubs.
It was also Wellington’s first loss in the road in their last six away trips. Durante’s unfortunate own goal is the second match in a row against Victory he has put through his own net.
Vukovic has had a solid start to his Victory career but came up with his best moment so far with a superb save on 25 minutes.
No one picked up Ben Sigmund from a corner with the defender heading powerfully towards goal from just eight yards out.
It seemed a certain goal but Vukovic demonstrated exceptional reflexes to somehow keep it out. It was a brilliant stop by the gloveman against his former club.
Just before the break Phoenix were forced into a change when midfielder Vince Lia pulled up with a hamstring injury as he tried to chase down Fahid Ben Khalfallah.
THE FINAL WORD
After a shock loss to Newcastle, Victory returned to their clinical best to jump back up into the top six. It’s just the build-up coach Kevin Muscat would have wanted heading into the Cup final against Glory on Saturday night.
Wellington will be licking their wounds after yet another scratchy defensive performance, despite some eye-catching moments going forward. They will need to tighten things up when they play the attack-minded Mariners on the Central Coast next Sunday.
Melbourne Victory: Vukovic, Geria, Broxham, Delpierre (Deng 84’), Georgievski, Valeri (c) (Mahazi 77’), Bozanic, Barbarouses, Finkler, Ben Khalfallah, Berisha (Howard 72’)
Wellington Phoenix: Moss, Muscat, Sigmund, Durante, Doyle (Fenton 73’), Riera, Lia (Rodriguez 42’), Bonevacia, Krishna, Sarpong (Powell 68’), McGlinchey
Scorers: Berisha 10’, Durante (og) 55’, Berisha 61’
Red cards: Nil
Yellow cards: Bonevacia 18’, Krishna 39’, Doyle 57’, Geria 80’, Georgievski 81’, Rodriguez 87’
Conditions: 14C, Cloudy
Attendance: 24,934 @ Etihad Stadium