A Jack Palazzolo hat-trick helped Melbourne Victory to a 4-2 win over Whittlesea Ranges in the NPL2 West on Saturday.
Palazzolo struck three times in the space of nine minutes early in the second half at Epping Stadium.
Jack Morton added Victory’s fourth before it closed out a deserved win despite late goals from Baggio Yousif and Andrew Doig for Whittlesea.
It was an even first half as both teams settled, with Victory only struggling to find a final pass.
Palazzolo threatened approaching the half-hour mark, the forward’s effort forcing a save from Ranges goalkeeper Dominic Cheung after a pass from Stefan Ristic.
Whittlesea went closest to an opener, however, Malesh Santino’s 30-yard strike rattling the crossbar eight minutes prior to the break.
It was a far livelier start to the second half as Palazzolo struck twice, but only after Victory goalkeeper Matthew Sutton produced a great save to deny Christopher Dib.
Palazzolo opened the scoring in the 50th minute, heading in from close range after Birkan Kirdar produced a cross with an overhead kick.
Just three minutes later it was 2-0, Palazzolo finishing well after being played in by Daniel Aye.
Palazzolo completed a nine-minute hat-trick before the hour-mark, the 18-year-old forward tapping in after Cheung could only parry a Kirdar strike.
Victory struck again in the 63rd minute, Morton curling in a second free-kick in as many games, this time into the top corner from 25 yards after Palazzolo was fouled.
The goals continued to flow as Yousif pulled one back for Whittlesea after a scramble in the area.
A quick free-kick from Doig made it 4-2, but Victory managed to see out its win.
Head coach Gareth Naven’s post-match thoughts
“I thought our energy in patches in the first half was good. We just needed to do it more often, that’s the difficulty I think, to reproduce energy all the time. And then second half it seems to bring us alive in regards to when we do things quicker, when we make forward runs, getting in position earlier, in position to do things, we start to look really dangerous and I thought we scored four good goals.
“I thought during the whole game, we did control possession. I was just asking the boys to be not cautious, but understand when you have so much control of possession it’s also important to control the transition, control the space when we lose the ball. We just need to improve that in certain areas, but overall, good effort, good attitude and more of the same – that’s what we require.”
NPL2 West 2019 Round 5
Whittlesea Ranges 2 (Baggio Yousif 68′, Andrew Doig 80′)
Melbourne Victory 4 (Jack Palazzolo 50’/53’/59′, Jack Morton 63′)
Melbourne Victory: Matthew Sutton (gk); Daniel Aye (Matthew Bozinovski), Aaron Anderson, Benjamin Carrigan (c), Aydin Mustedanagic; Jack Morton; Brandon Lauton, Birkan Kirdar (Nicholas Hamakiotis), Stefan Ristic; Jack Palazzolo, Yazid Said (Ryan Lethlean).
Victory’s under-20s continued their strong start to the season, beating Whittlesea 4-0.