Melbourne Victory’s best performance under coach Kevin Muscat has earned them a 3-1 A-League win over Western Sydney Wanderers at AAMI Park.
Goals from Archie Thompson, Kostas Barbarouses and Gui Finkler gave Victory their first win over the Wanderers in five matches and propelled them to third on the A-League table.
Little more than two weeks after their previous encounter, Muscat ensured there would be no need for a last-minute saviour with his team starting at pace, making space for creativity through sharp one-touch passing.
The terms of engagement were decided early, with Victory’s urgent work set against Wanderers’ more patient and physical approach.
While Barbarouses was yet to find his shooting boots early, it was worse at the other end for Victory when Andrew Nabbout was stretchered off in a neck brace defending a corner.
After 13 minutes, as he was clearing a corner by head, Nabbout was collected by Dean Heffernan’s swinging boot.
The delay seemed to remind the players of Melbourne’s baking heat, with long stretches without clear chances.
The six minutes of time on brought Wanderers’ best spell, with Nathan Coe denying shots from Mark Bridge and Brendon Santalab, and Nikolai Topor-Stanley’s header.
After the break it was Thompson who opened the scoring, finishing a flowing Victory move on 52 minutes.
Victory had the ball zipping past Wanderers players from the back of the pitch to the midfield, where the outstanding Rashid Mahazi sent the ball wide to Barbarouses, whose pinpoint cross gave Thompson the easiest of chances.
Ten minutes later, Barbarouses made it two after racing onto a finely placed long ball from acting captain Leigh Broxham.
The New Zealand international baffled Topor-Stanley and buried his chance past Ante Covic in impressive fashion.
James Troisi could have added a third on a lightning-paced breakaway but found only the onrushing Covic as he sped through on the counter.
Deep into injury time, a Tomi Juric goal from a Youssof Hersi cross seemed to have set up a concerning finish for Muscat, but less than a minute after the restart, Finkler’s finish past Covic gave Victory the margin their play merited.
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