The Wellington Phoenix have slumped to a fourth straight A-League loss, hammered 6-1 by Melbourne Victory in an incident-packed encounter at Etihad Stadium.
The Phoenix simply had no answer to Victory's pace and attacking cohesion with a hat-trick to lethal marksman Besart Berisha and two goals from Marco Rojas more than enough to consign them to a fifth consecutive defeat in the now familiar Melbourne Cup Eve meeting between the two sides.
The Phoenix had won only once on fourteen previous visits to Victory and any hope of doubling that tally largely evaporated inside 60 crazy first-half seconds during which they conceded two penalties.
They could have few arguments about either. First, Roly Bonevacia clattered clumsily into fullback Daniel Georgievski as he raided into the penalty area and then Dylan Fox got the wrong side of Berisha and clipped his heels as he headed goalwards. The Albanian gleefully dispatched both spot-kicks, the second his 50th goal in all competitions for Victory.
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick was dealt a blow before kick-off with centre-back Marco Rossi ruled out with a muscle strain. The Italian's composure was sorely missed as the home side relentlessly attacked an inexperienced Phoenix backline, three of who totalled just 17 A-League starts between them. Left winger Mitch Austin was particularly prominent, giving Phoenix right-back Jacob Tratt a torrid time.
After a seventh consecutive goal-less half, the Phoenix attacked with more intent after the break, Bonevacia drawing a fingertip save from Victory 'keeper Lawrence Thomas with a blistering left-footed drive from outside the penalty area. But the Phoenix were reduced to ten men after an hour when Fox body-checked a flying Austin and received a second yellow card.
But shortly afterwards, the Phoenix were handed a lifeline when Roy Krishna was brought down in the penalty area by Spanish centre-back Alan Baro. The Fijian flyer picked himself up and slotted the Phoenix's first goal of the season after 333 goal-less minutes.
Berisha then squandered the chance to seal the points, dragging his shot wide after being put through one-on-one with Glen Moss. It mattered little as Marco Rojas scored twice in six minutes to put the result beyond doubt. The All Whites attacker then turned provider, squaring the ball for Berisha to lash home his third and Victory's fifth. A late strike from Austin completed the Phoenix's Halloween horror.