Melbourne Victory, who just days ago had their sights set on second place, were routed in embarrassing fashion at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night. Carlos Hernandez scored twice and added an assist against his former team as Ernie Merrick's Phoenix destroyed the Victory 5-0, giving Wellington its best ever result in the A-League.
With Mitch Nichols left out of the side, presumably setting the stage for his transfer to the J-League's Cerezo Osaka, Kevin Muscat took a risk in crossing the ditch. Yet starting James Troisi, Kosta Barbarouses, Guy Finkler and Archie Thompson usually reaps a much better yield than their collective performance at the Cake Tin. To be fair, the visitors had just played in terrible heat on Tuesday night before making the trip to New Zealand. But the possibility of being level on points with Western Sydney Wanderers for second place should have been motivation enough not to endure such a beating.
Hernandez, the former Victory star, was the key man in the first half, scoring the opener and setting up Kenny Cunningham's brilliant goal just before halftime. The Costa Rican, Hernandez that is, scored his second on a penalty in first half injury time before exiting in the 51st minute. Late in the game it was Jeremy Brockie who provided the fireworks after starting the game on the bench. Tyler Boyd got the start but Brockie's entrance in the 83rd minute immediately led to Wellington's fourth goal. Brockie then assisted on Stein Huysegems 87th minute goal that capped the strong performance for the Phoenix.
Wellington are now unbeaten in five with four wins to their name since December 14. A win next weekend could see them in a finals position, though it would have to come at Brisbane Roar on Friday night. The Victory are said to be nearing a deal for Tom Rogic, which would surely help prevent scoreless nights like Saturday. In the meantime, they're scheduled to host Sydney FC at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday January 26.
WPX Hernandez (Lia) 18'
WPX Cunningham (Hernandez) 45'
WPX Hernandez (pen) 45'
WPX Brockie (Riera) 85'
WPX Huysegems (Brockie) 87'
Wellington Phoenix: Moss; Muscat, Durante, Sigmund, Boxall; Riera, Lia; Cunningham, Hernandez (Ridenton 51'), Boyd (Brockie 83'); Huysegems
Unused substitutes: Italiano, Bertos, Krishna
Melbourne Victory: Coe; Traore, Contreras, Leijer, Broxham (Murnane 82'); Jeggo (Brown 69'), Mahazi; Troisi, Barbarouses; Finkler (Makarounas 55'), Thompson
Unused substitutes: Thomas, Christaldo