Melbourne City FC consolidated its position inside the Hyundai A-League top four with a resounding 5-1 win over Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.
An own goal from Ryan Lowry gave City the lead after 20 minutes, before captain Bruno Fornaroli – who returned from suspension to lead the line - doubled his side’s advantage with a neat-finish only nine minutes later.
Anthony Caceres added a third with half an hour to play, and while Kosta Barbarouses gave the Phoenix a lifeline in the 70th minute, late goals to Neil Kilkenny and Nicolas Colazo rounded out a comprehensive win as City came away with a much-needed three points.
It was a polished away performance from Michael Valkanis' side, who displayed ruthlessness in attack to surge into third place on the league table ahead of a home meeting with league leaders Sydney FC next Friday night.
After turning to the Club’s promising youth contingent in an impressive showing against Brisbane last week, Michael Valkanis welcomed back the cavalry to take on Wellington, making six changes from the side which picked up a 2-2 draw.
In windy and overcast conditions at the ‘Cake Tin’, the home side had an early chance when Kosta Barbarouses teed up Roy Krishna with a driven cross, but the Fijian could only fire his effort high and wide.
The Phoenix began the clash with adventure and purpose as Krishna saw another effort on goal denied superbly by City goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen at the near post.
Moments later, Wellington had a golden opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot after 14 minutes when Manny Muscat was adjudged to have brought down Barbarouses inside the area, although replays suggested the light touch to have occurred outside the area.
The Kiwi international stepped up to take the spot-kick, sending Sorensen the wrong way, only to crash his effort against the crossbar.
Roly Bonevacia nearly atoned for the miss instantly with a dinked effort that rolled just wide of the post, but City took the wind out of Wellington’s sails moments later with the opening goal in the 20th minute.
Nick Fitzgerald, a prominent figure in many of City’s attacking forays, sprung the offside trap and broke open the Phoenix defence with a storming run down the right, with his driven cutback diverted home by Lowry for an own goal.
With nerves eased by the opening goal, City quickly settled into their rhythm and were two to the good only nine minutes later through the golden boot of Fornaroli.
After Wellington goalkeeper Glen Moss was penalised for handling outside his area, Luke Brattan’s driven set-piece first cannoned off Muscat before finding its way to Fornaroli, who volleyed home neatly to double the lead.
City were in complete control at this point, with Fornaroli denied a second goal in the latter stages of the half when his rasping strike was thwarted by a superb diving save from Moss.
The contest was as good as over on the hour mark when Caceres tripled City’s advantage, ghosting in unmarked at the back post to turn home a driven cut-back from Josh Rose.
Barbarouses threw the Phoenix a lifeline with a neat piece of play, nutmegging two City defenders and Sorensen to make it 3-1 with 20 minutes to play.
Yet it was City who kept up the pressure, putting the Phoenix to the sword with a dominant finish to the game.
Kilkenny added his side’s fourth in the 82nd minute, dancing past Adam Parkhouse and slotting home past Glen Moss, before Colazo swept home emphatically with his left foot three minutes from time to seal an emphatic win.
Confidence will be sky high as Valkanis' side prepare for a massive encounter against league leaders Sydney FC at AAMI Park on Friday 24 February, kick-off 7:50pm.
Hyundai A-League - Round 20
Saturday 18 February 2017
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Kosta Barbarouses 70')
Melbourne City FC 5 (Ryan Lowry OG 20', Bruno Fornaroli 29', Anthony Caceres 59', Neil Kilkenny 82', Nicolas Colazo 87')
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Melbourne City FC: 1. Thomas SORENSEN (GK), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Josh ROSE, 6. Osama MALIK, 8. Neil KILKENNY, 10. Anthony CACERES (18. Paulo RETRE 88'), 12. Nick FITZGERALD, 21. Ruon TONGYIK, 23. Bruno FORNAROLI (C) (17. Tim CAHILL 86'), 26. Luke BRATTAN, 27. Fernando BRANDAN (9. Nicolas COLAZO 74')
Substitutes not used: 40. Yaren SOZER (GK), 34. Denis GENREAU,
Yellow cards: Caceres 8’, Muscat 40, Malik 46'
Red cards: nil
Wellington Phoenix: 1. Glen MOSS (GK), 4. Roly BONEVACIA, 5. Ryan LOWRY, 8. Alex RODRIGUEZ (25. Sarpreet SINGH 66'), 9. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 11. Hamish WATSON, 13. Marco ROSSI, 17. Vince LIA, 19. Tom DOYLE (12. Adam PARKHOUSE 81'), 21. Roy KRISHNA (99. Shane SMELTZ 54'), 23. Matthew RIDENTON
Substitutes not used: 20. Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 6. Dylan FOX
Yellow cards: Doyle 69', Smeltz 75'
Red cards: nil