Melbourne Victory’s excellent start to the 2022 NPLM 3 Victoria continued on Saturday afternoon with a 6-0 win over Ballarat City, highlighted by a Lleyton Brooks hat-trick.
A wet and windy Epping Stadium greeted both sets of players, with Victory hunting their fifth win in six NPLM games.
Despite a couple of early chances for Ballarat, Victory established themselves as the dominant side early in the contest.
Following a strong spell of possession and some territorial dominance, Brooks opened the scoring after just 16 minutes.
A brilliant run in which the winger skipped past several defenders before executing a thunderous finish past David Carton in the Ballarat goal, the strike gave Victory a well-deserved lead.
Victory continued to create the better chances for the remainder of the first half, with Ballarat looking at their most dangerous when trying to hit on the counter.
As half-time approached it seemed that Victory would be heading into the break with a 1-0 advantage, but Will Wilson changed that script in the dying minutes of the first half.
A quickly taken free kick released the Victory midfielder who was charging at the Ballarat goal before firing a powerful shot which crept in under the goalkeeper and doubled the home side’s lead just before the break.
Victory wasted no time extending their lead in the second half, as Luka Prso delivered a pin-point corner onto the head of Brooks who scored his second for the afternoon.
3-0 up and cruising, everything was going to plan for head coach Joe Palatsides.
Victory added a fourth just after the hour mark when Prso scored a goal of his own from the edge of the area with a delightful curling effort.
The goals continued to rain down when Brooks added an assist to his name with a clever cut-back cross leaving the Ballarat defence flat footed and teeing-up substitute Adem Duratovic for a simple finish to make the score 5-0.
Brooks secured his hat-trick in the final minute of the game with a clinical right-footed strike across the keeper having been put through one-on-one.
Brooks’ hat-trick plus an assist ensured he was the stand-out performer from a dominant 6-0 display.
Six games unbeaten means Victory are well and truly in the promotion race early in the NPLM season.
Head Coach Joe Palatsides’ post-match thoughts
On the performance…
“It was a really good win by the boys. We have had a great couple of weeks and we are starting to play really well. I also think we are starting to gel as a team and dominate games which we definitely want to see our boys doing.”
On Lleyton Brooks’ stellar showing…
“Lleyton had a great game today. He is a quality young player. It wasn’t just the goals but also some of the crosses he whipped in and his one-on-one ability were signs of a really good young player which stood out today.”
On the Lino brothers playing together…
“I think it is a great story to have the two brothers playing together. Jackson is becoming a versatile young player; he is very athletic and aggressive and now he is starting to understand what we want from him both at left-back and centre-back. Today, moving him to centre-back opened up an opportunity for Franco who has been playing well in the Under-21s games so he deserved this opportunity. I thought both of them put in solid performances which helped the team going forward.”
NPL 3 Victoria 2022 Round 8:
Melbourne Victory 6 (Lleyton Brooks 16’ 50’ 90’, Will Wilson 44’, Luka Prso 62’, Adem Duratovic 73’)
Ballarat City 0
Melbourne Victory U23s starting XI: Marko Bulic (gk), Zaydan Bello (c), Aaron Anderson, Franco Lino, Jackson Lino, Alexander Menelaou, Luka Prso, Lleyton Brooks, Will Wilson, James Paneras, Binyam Kebede
Victory now have eight straight wins to start their Under-21 campaign, following a 3-1 win over Ballarat.