Uruguayan sharpshooter Bruno Fornaroli scored a hat-trick as Melbourne City recorded a vital 3-0 A-League win over Sydney FC on Saturday night at AAMI Park.
Fornaroli netted once in the first half and twice in the second to take his season tally to a record 20 goals.
The win keeps City’s top-two hopes alive, while Sydney are winless in their past seven outings.
Riding high on the back of their mid-week Asian Champions League victory over Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande, the Sky Blues will consider themselves unlucky despite the lopsided scoreline, having created several gilt-edged scoring opportunities only to be hurt on the break by City.
Coach Graham Arnold was forced to shuffle his line-up with David Carney, Seb Ryall, Jacques Faty and Rhyan Grant all suspended and Alex Brosque out with a hamstring injury, but his rejigged combination held sway for much of the first half.
Ali Abbas was a constant threat out wide on the left, as was Andrew Hoole on the right, with City custodian Thomas Sorenesen by far the busier of the two keepers as Sydney’s domination in possession translated to several shots on goal.
Filip Holosko was proving a handful deep in attack and his scything run in the 39th minute forced a cynical tackle from City skipper Patrick Kisnorbo, who was shown a yellow card by referee Jarred Gillett that could have easily been a red.
It was the clearance from the resultant free-kick that broke the deadlock in the 41st minute.
Fornaroli attracted two defenders as he latched onto the long ball, before he knocked it wide to Aaron Mooy who gave it back for the Uruguayan star to find the net to the right of Vedran Janjetovic.
Mooy struggled to exert his usual influence, as Sydney robbed the star playmaker of space, but he forced an outstanding low save from Janjetovic after the restart.
The Sky Blues continued to create chances in an entertaining, free-flowing affair, but Fornaroli sealed maximum points with goals in the 71st and 82nd minutes.
He combined with strike partner Harry Novillo, in his first game back from a club-imposed suspension for a domestic incident, to turn and shoot truly from close range for his second goal, and tapped in his third after latching onto a superb Michael Zullo cross.
Earlier, Adelaide United were far too strong for Wellington, winning 4-0 in New Zealand.
First-half goals to Dylan McGowan and Stefan Mauk were supplemented by second-half strikes from Bruce Djite and Pablo Sanchez in a clinical performance.