Melbourne City strengthened its position inside the Hyundai A-League top four after a comprehensive 4-0 win over Newcastle Jets on Saturday night.
Tim Cahill opened the scoring with a powerful header after just 12 minutes before a superb goal from substitute Nick Fitzgerald doubled City’s advantage.
A late brace from skipper Bruno Fornaroli – the first of which came from the penalty spot – sealed the game for Michael Valkanis’ side.
The hosts rarely looked troubled and dominated possession against a Newcastle team still hopeful of making the play-offs this season.
It’s a result which moves City three points clear of fourth place Brisbane Roar with four games to go, increasing their chances of a securing a home final.
City Head Coach Michael Valkanis made two changes from the side which defeated Central Coast Mariners a fortnight ago.
Tim Cahill and Nicolas Colazo were recalled to the attack, as Fitzgerald and Fernando Brandán – who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in training last week- dropped out.
Both sides had received the benefit of a week off after the league’s split round, yet it was the visitors who carved out the first chance of the game after just five minutes.
Newcastle midfielder Ben Kantarovski retrieved possession inside the centre circle and released Andrew Nabbout down the left. The winger only had goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen to beat, however he scooped his effort wide of the far post.
City responded impressively and took the lead seven minutes later. Left-back Josh Rose received the ball in an advanced position before whipping an inviting cross into the box for Cahill to head home. Goalkeeper Lachlan Jackson got a hand to it but couldn’t keep the ball out.
The hosts dominated possession after that and almost doubled their advantage in the 28th minute.
Fornaroli was fouled by defender Nigel Boogaard on the edge of the visitor’s penalty area but couldn’t hit the target with the following free-kick.
In a first half which saw few goal scoring opportunities, the Jets almost equalised from a free-kick in a similar position, however Andrew Hoole’s effort was deflected behind for a corner.
Valkanis’ side started positively after the interval, with Colazo and Fornaroli testing Jackson in the visitor’s goal.
Neil Kilkenny was the next City player to try his luck but his shot from distance deflected wide for a corner.
Newcastle briefly threatened with a corner of their own, which was flicked across the penalty area by Nabbout, however no one could apply the finishing touch.
City soon made their opponents pay with a goal of immense quality on 65 minutes.
Anthony Caceres picked up the ball outside the penalty area and clipped a delightful pass over the defence for Fitzgerald- who had replaced Cahill moments earlier. The Australian midfielder poked the ball past Jackson, giving his side a two-goal buffer.
The game was put beyond doubt ten minutes later when substitute Bruce Kamau was brought down by Daniel Mullen inside the box and Fornaroli converted the penalty.
City added a fourth when Fitzgerald charged down the right and cut the ball back to Fornaroli who couldn’t miss from close range.
It’s a trip to Western Sydney for Michael Valkanis’ side as it looks to make it three wins on the trot on Friday night at Spotless Stadium.
With the Wanderers themselves looking to secure a finals berth and the looming Asian Champions League keeping Tony Popovic’s side busy, City will look to cement its third spot with three points ahead of another battle with league-leaders Sydney FC the week after.
Hyundai A-League – Round 23
Saturday 18 March 2017
Melbourne City 4 (Tim CAHILL 12’, Nick FITZGERALD 61’, Bruno FORNAROLI 75 [Pen]’, 80)
Newcastle Jets 0
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Chris Beath
Melbourne City FC: 1. Thomas SORENSEN (GK), 3. Josh ROSE, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 6. Osama MALIK, 8. Neil KILKENNY, 9. Nicolas COLAZO (11. Bruce KAMAU 73’), 10. Anthony CACERES, 17. Tim CAHILL (12. Nick FITZGERALD 57’) 23. Bruno FORNAROLI (C), 21. Ruon TONGYIK, 26. Luke BRATTAN (18. Paulo RETRE 87’)
Substitutes not used: 40. Yaren SOZER (GK), 2. Manny MUSCAT
Yellow cards: Tongyik 40’, Brattan 59’
Red cards: nil
Newcastle Jets: 20. Jack DUNCAN (GK), 2. Daniel MULLEN, 4. Nigel BOOGAARD, 5. Benjamin KANTAROVSKI, 6. Steven UGARKOVIC (8. Mateo POLJAK 85’), 7. Andrew HOOLE, 9. Aleksandr KOKKO (19. Morten NORDSTRAND 45’), 10. Wayne BROWN, 15. Andrew NABBOUT, 22. Lachlan JACKSON, 28. John KOUTROUMBIS,
Substitutes not used: 30. Pierce CLARK, 13. Ivan VUJICA, 18. Ma LEILEI
Yellow cards: Boogaard 27’, Brown 45’
Red cards: nil