Easy Victory keeps slender finals hopes alive

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday, 12 January 2008, p. 95.

Melbourne Victory defeated Wellington Phoenix by three goals to nil in its last game at Telstra Dome for this A-League season, watched by 25,498 fans.

Victory had to win and hope that Newcastle Jets fails to get a point from its last two matches to qualify for the finals this year.

Last year’s defending champion’s main focus is preparation for the Asian Champions’ league but it was still keen to get a result last night.

Both teams were below full strength with Phoenix skipper Ross Aloisi suspended and Victory’s striker Daniel Allsopp sidelined with injury.

Nick Ward and skipper Kevin Muscat passed late fitness tests to take their places in the Melbourne starting line-up.

The Phoenix began with a flurry of passing movements, but within a few minutes Victory started testing the away team’s notoriously porous defence.

Carlos Hernandez rounded his man and hit the cross bar with a thunderous shot which bounced down and up over Archie Thompson’s despairing leap.

Three minutes later Hernandez tried an audacious chip from out on the left which beat keeper Glenn Moss and landed on top of the cross-bar.

In 31 minutes Victory gained the lead with a fine goal.

Thompson and Nick Ward worked the ball across the edge of the penalty area and Hernandez drove it back across Moss into the bottom corner.

Four minutes more of Victory pressure culminated in a run by Adrian Caceres which took him to the bye-line from where he cut the ball back to Nick Ward who side-footed it in off the goalpost.

Victory was well worth its two-goal lead at the interval.

The second half was more tightly contested as Victory controlled the midfield and the visitor found it hard to get shots on target.

The closest Phoenix came to scoring was a powerful header by defender Steven O’Dor which struck the crossbar with Michael Theoklitos beaten.

Late in the game Victory had two four-man breaks, one of which was spurned by Thompson but the second saw the ball spin wide to young substitute Kaz Patafta who finished well from a difficult angle.

Three wins on the trot keeps Victory’s hopes alive a little longer.

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