Victory take down Mariners

Melbourne Victory has moved six points clear at the top of the Hyundai A-League table after defeating Central Coast 2-1 at Telstra Dome on Friday night.

Melbourne Victory has moved six points clear at the top of the Hyundai A-League table after defeating Central Coast 2-1 at Telstra Dome on Friday night.

Despite conceding the opening goal to John Hutchinson on 33 minutes, veteran midfielder Tom Pondeljak equalised just three minutes later, before Archie Thompson scored his fifth of the campaign on the hour mark to seal the three points.

The win sees Melbourne (25 points) move six points clear in its 2008/09 campaign, with Adelaide United (17) and Sydney FC (16) a chance to bridge the gap when they meet on Saturday.

Victory coach Ernie Merrick said during the week that his side would come out on the attack and it didn't take long for that to occur.

Thompson won a free kick on the side of the box and Billy Celeski fired a powerful effort on target, only for Mariners' custodian Danny Vukovic to tap the ball over his net.

Moments later Rody Vargas was left unmarked at the far post from a Celeski free kick, but the Victory defender could only head wide under little or no pressure.

Victory continued to attack, with skipper Kevin Muscat trying his luck from long range and Danny Allsopp missing a relatively easy chance from the top of the box after being set-up by Thompson.

But against the run of play, Central Coast took the lead when Hutchinson scored with a long range free kick after 34 minutes.

Hutchinson floated in what looked to be a simple ball for the Victory defence to handle, but the ball beat everyone - including Michael Theoklitos at the far post - as the Mariners took the lead.

However, it wasn't long before Victory squared the ledger as Pondeljak volleyed home just three minutes later after a lovely one-two with Thompson.

Pondeljak intercepted an errant Mariners pass in the middle of the pitch, found Thompson with a little lob, before the Victory striker squared the ball back to set-up the spectacular equaliser.

The vocal home fans wanted a second goal straight away, but the Mariners used the ball well and only some sound defending from Theoklitos, Muscat and Vargas ensured the scoreline remained locked at the break.

Allsopp had the chance to give the home side the lead shortly after the resumption, but Victory's leading scorer failed to control the ball when he had just the keeper to beat.

Central Coast could have had a second just two minutes later when Dylan Macallister found the back of the net, but the assistant referee judged the Mariners striker offside.

While there was some doubt over the offside call made against Macallister, there was no doubt about Thompson's goal which gave the home side the lead after 60 minutes.

Celeski played a speculative long ball from his own half, but Thompson used his pace and control to perfection to run on to the pass and side-foot the shot past Vukovic and bring up his eighth goal in just 10 matches against the Mariners.

Rather than sit back on the lead, Merrick decided to introduce Leigh Broxham and Carlos Hernandez into the game and the Costa Rican tried his luck on two occasions from long range, only to shoot wide on both occasions.

Central Coast searched for a late equaliser, but Victory's defence held firm as the home fans were treated to their fourth win at Telstra Dome this season.

Melbourne Victory 2 (Pondeljak 37-, Thompson 60-) Central Coast Mariners 1 (Hutchinson 34-)

Telstra Dome, Melbourne Crowd: 21,455 Friday 21 November 2008 Referee: Strebre Delovski

Victory memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season are currently available from the Victory Shop, 236 Swan Street, Richmond, by calling 1300 GO MVFC or online by clicking here.