Wellington Phoenix 4
Melbourne Victory 1
The Wellington Phoenix have produced their best performance of the A-League season, thumping the Melbourne Victory 4-1 in Wollongong to leap back into playoff contention.
The return of former skipper Steven Taylor was key but Wellington's various attacking threats were on full display with Tomer Hemed, David Ball, Ulises Davila and Clayton Lewis all on the scoresheet.
After a bright Victory start, Wellington opened the scoring in the eleventh minute at the end of a flowing passing move. Reno Piscopo – whose stocks rise every week – controlled a high ball with aplomb in his own half before threading a long pass to the feet of Ball in the attacking third. His offload to Davila on the edge of the box was as precise as the Mexican's sideways pass to Hemed who gleefully fired the ball into the roof of the net to notch his third goal in as many games.
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The Phoenix's second after 36 minutes wasn't without controversy. A cross to the far post was headed back across goal by Taylor and in the resulting goalmouth scramble the ball seemed to strike the arm of a prone Alex Rufer. Play continued, with Ball eventually finding the net and despite Victory's protests and a VAR check the goal was allowed to stand.
Lewis almost extended the lead shortly afterwards, thundering a left-footed piledriver against the crossbar, with Hemed missing the chance for a tap-in from the resulting movement. James McGarry also came close to his maiden A-League goal early in the second period, his left-footed strike touched onto the post by Melbourne goalkeeper Matt Acton.
On the hour, Davila made it three after some dynamic build-up play from McGarry, curling home a 20-yard shot with his less-preferred right foot. As a ragged, ramshackle Victory outfit tired, Lewis netted his first A-League goal to extend the margin, planting a precise shot past Acton at the end of a fast-break.
The contest wasn't without its nervous moments for Phoenix fans, but Oliver Sail – now firmly entrenched as the side's number one goalkeeper – twice denied Victory an opener, first from Elvis Kamsoba after half an hour and then spectacularly from Ben Folami in first-half injury time. Kamsoba eventually scored a consolation for Victory with 15 minutes to go, lifting the ball over Sail before collapsing to the turf with cramp.
Taylor's inclusion was the only change to Ufuk Talay's starting side and his influence in the defensive unit was constantly evident in his 50th game for the club.
The win lifts the Phoenix to eighth on the A-League ladder, just three points outside the top six. They next host fifth-placed Macarthur FC on Sunday.
Wellington Phoenix 4 (Hemed 11, Ball 36, Davila 62, Lewis 68)
Melbourne Victory 1 (Kamsoba 76)