Wellington Phoenix extended their unbeaten run to five games in outplaying a hapless Melbourne Victory 5-0 at Westpac Stadium
Wellington Phoenix extracted sweet revenge for their fourth round defeat by Melbourne Victory with a 5-0 win at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
Outplayed and defeated 3-2 at AAMI Park in November, the Phoenix returned the favour is spades over third-placed Melbourne, in the process extending their unbeaten run to five games.
It was just their second home victory of the A-League season, and closes them to within two points of sixth place and the playoffs after going without a win for the first 10 games.
The battle for midfield dominance was intense right from the first whistle, and Wellington were the first to break through in the 18th minute when Vince Lia slipped a tantalising pass through to the edge of the box.
Young striker Tyler Boyd, who earned a start at the expense of the out-of-touch Jeremy Brockie, let the ball run and Hernandez slotted home under the diving Nathan Coe to put the Phoenix in front.
Melbourne looked disorganised in the front third on the rare occasions they found themselves on attack, and a succession of miskicks and skied shots were all they had to show as halftime neared.
But just as it look like the Phoenix’s would take a 1-0 lead into the break, Kenny Cunningham took one touch 20m out and unleashed a perfectly placed dipping strike to double the lead.
And barely a minute later, Rashid Mahazi’s challenge on Hernandez in the box had referee Adam Kersey pointing to the spot for the Costa Rican to calmly convert into a 3-0 halftime lead.
Melbourne showed more intent in the second half but, urged on by a vocal 6813-strong crowd, the Phoenix continued to press hard as they restricted the Victory to only the rare foray on goal.
The icing on the cake came in the 86th minute when Brockie, goalless since scoring in round four against the Victory, came on and slammed home a class Albert Reira through ball for the Phoenix’s fourth.
Barely two minutes later, Sein Huysegems rounded off an outstanding night with his seventh goal of the season.
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick said it was satisfying to see his team finally deliver the 90-minute performance they’d been threatening.
“I think it was long overdue that we win a game, and we win a game well,” he said.
“We’ve threatened to do it several times, but tonight we dominated the game from end to end and we created numerous goal-scoring chances.
“It all came together and now the challenge is to repeat that ongoing.”
That challenge begins next week against Brisbane Roar, with the Phoenix facing the league leaders without two of Saturday’s goal-scorers in Carlos Hernandez and Kenny Cunningham.
The pair leave with the Costa Rican national team on Sunday to play two friendly games in South America as warm-up for the World Cup in Brazil later this year.
Subdued Victory coach Kevin Muscat made no excuses for his team’s disappointing performance.
“We didn’t really turn up. Credit to Wellington, they were the far better team tonight and they deserved the win,” he said.
“We’ll take our medicine – we weren’t good enough to win a football game tonight. We didn’t play anywhere near well enough to win, it’s as simple as that.”
Victory looked a different team from the one that downed Western Sydney Wanderers 3-1 on Tuesday, and Muscat says he’ll be taking a close look at what’s behind the huge drop in form.
“We’re going to have to really assess how the last two performances were so different.”