Melbourne Victory did all they could to secure home advantage in the A-League play-offs with a 4-1 pasting of Wellington Phoenix.
Melbourne Victory tuned up for the A-League play-offs in style with a 4-1 pasting of a hapless Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
Coach Kevin Muscat had challenged his players to front up with a performance worthy of a place in the finals, and they delivered.
First-half goals to Archie Thompson, James Troisi and Gui Finkler had the game wrapped up by the break, as the Victory ran riot in the midfield and tormented Wellington’s makeshift back four.
Victory skipper Mark Milligan’s 57th minute penalty extended the margin, and only Jeremy Brockie’s thunderous injury-time volley offered the home team any measure of respectability.
“We really wanted to nail down a good performance, and I thought from start to almost the finish it was one where we dominated the game and bossed the game,” Muscat said afterwards.
“We had a great deal to play for – first and foremost, performance was paramount leading into finals and what I’ve seen in terms of attitude and action tonight represents a team that really wants to succeed.”
The win guarantees the Victory a top-four finish and a home elimination match, and Muscat said it was pleasing to see such a comprehensive win leading into the business end of the season.
But he pointed to the late lapse which led to Brockie’s consolation goal from a corner in the 92nd minute.
“That was a little bit of madness on our part – if you take liberties in this game it’ll bit you on the backside,” he said.
“That’s what we did in the last couple of minutes, and they scored off a corner. Maybe that’s a little bit of a jolt to the system for us.”
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick, who guided the Victory to two grand final wins in 2007 and 2009, says Muscat’s team are strong contenders for this year’s title.
“I think they’ll do well in the finals. As far as I’m concerned, it’ll be between them and Brisbane Roar – two good teams.
“Players like Troisi, Barbarouses is playing his best football I’ve seen, Archie Thompson is still buzzing, Finkler in midfield … the salaries are pretty high, but they’re delivering.”
The Victory have little time to revel in their win, with a tough Asian Champions League group match against Chinese team Guangzhou Evergrande in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Muscat says the match will mean a change in focus, but he’s confident his squad can deliver.
Their injury roster is light, and although attacking midfielder Tom Rogic is an unlikely starter, defender Pablo Contreras is a possibility to return to action.
“We’ll go into that game with the strongest team possible, taking into consideration fatigue, injuries, risk and a finals game if we’ve go one,” Muscat said.
“We’re playing against a very good team, the best team in Asia in my opinion.”