Two spectacular long-range strikes in the opening half plus two from Archie Thompson in the second has given Melbourne its most emphatic win of the season.
Two spectacular long-range strikes in the opening half, including Robbie Kruse’s first goal for Melbourne Victory, plus two from Archie Thompson in the second half has given the reigning Hyundai A-League champions their most emphatic win of the season.
The Victory’s first ever home clash with the A-League’s new glamour club Gold Coast was a one-sided affair as first-half goals from Kruse and Nick Ward set up the 4-0 hammering at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
Incredibly the win was only Melbourne’s third in nine games in front of its own passionate fans this season with the decision to set Etihad up in the traditional rectangular format for the first time proving a huge hit as a crowd of more than 20,000 was much closer to the action than usual and provided a magical atmosphere which lifted the home side to great heights.
Melbourne’s rise to the top of the ladder in recent weeks had been built on its fantastic away record – with six wins from seven matches on the road this year – and overall the champions went into this clash having won seven of their past nine games.
Amazingly the only two defeats in that period had been the club’s two heaviest defeats ever at home – 3-0 against Sydney in October and 4-0 against Central Coast in the club’s last home match three weeks ago.
But against a Gold Coast side missing not only its No.1 keeper Jess Vanstrattan as well as suspended defenders Bas Van Den Brink and Kristian Rees, the visitors were ripe for the picking.
Indeed Gold Coast had only one first-choice defender available in former Victory defender Michael Thwaite and sensing the visitors were vulnerable, Melbourne attacked from the outset.
As early as the first minute Thompson played in Kruse but he dealt too long on the ball and the chance was lost.
And after Thompson had headed wide in the eighth minute, Gold Coast almost took a shock lead a minute later when the competition’s leading scorer Shane Smeltz missed a free header right in front of goal after a great cross from Jason Culina.
It was the sort of chance the New Zealand international striker would normally score in his sleep and it was a costly miss as after that it was all one-way traffic.
After Carlos Hernandez had gone close on three occasions for Melbourne, Kruse opened the scoring in the 28th minute when his 25-yard screamer nestled in the top right-hand corner.
It was the former Brisbane forward’s first goal in six appearances for Melbourne and it wasn’t long before Ward came up with another of similar quality just before half-time.
This time Ward was perfectly set up by Thompson and his 25-yard thunderbolt went in off the left post to have the Victory cruising at the break.
Such was Melbourne’s first-half dominance that the Victory – despite losing midfield hard man Grant Brebner to an ankle injury – had enjoyed 61 percent of possession and had unleashed 11 shots to three.
Then in the second half Ward, who played one of his best-ever games for Melbourne, turned provider when he set up Thompson for the Victory’s third in the 54th minute with a perfect through ball before Kruse then set up Thompson’s second in the 68th minute as Archie finished the move with a lovely curling shot into the top right-hand corner.
Thompson has now scored eight goals for the season and 46 in just 92 games overall as he continues to maintain his impressive scoring rate of a goal every two matches.
And while the win put Melbourne five points clear at the top of the ladder from Sydney FC – which is still to play in Round 16 – just as importantly the Victory are now six points clear of Gold Coast, which was the team widely tipped to dethrone the reigning champions at the start of this season.
Melbourne Victory: 4 (Kruse 28, Ward 45, Thompson 54, 68)
Gold Coast: 0
Crowd: 20,537 at Etihad Stadium