Melbourne Victory moved into third in the Hyundai A-League after a convincing 5-2 win over the Central Coast Mariners on Sunday.
A hat-trick from Besart Berisha and goals from Leroy George and Christian Theoharous – his first for the club – at AAMI Park saw Victory to its win as it climbed above City on the table.
The result, which came despite Connor Pain’s late brace for the Mariners, extended Victory’s unbeaten run to five matches, stretching its winning streak in the league to three.
The Mariners were dangerous early as Rhys Williams produced a goal-line clearance to deny Antony Golec in the third minute.
Victory’s first chance fell to Leigh Broxham, who forced a save from Ben Kennedy with a side-footed effort from a Thomas Deng cross.
Berisha headed in a delivery from Deng in the ninth minute, but the forward’s strike was correctly ruled out for offside.
However, there was no denying Victory in the 15th minute.
Berisha released George with a beautiful pass down the left and the winger made no mistake with a powerful finish for his sixth league goal of the season.
That duo combined again 10 minutes later to make it 2-0.
Berisha played a pass into George before making a run through the middle, the winger finding the 32-year-old, who finished clinically.
A suspected broken leg to Golec led to a lengthy delay late in the half as Victory took a two-goal lead into the break.
Jake McGing and Blake Powell missed headed chances for Central Coast early in the second half before Victory struck again.
George did wonderfully in the area before picking out James Troisi, who unselfishly teed up Berisha to sweep home his second.
Victory continued to threaten and Kennedy pushed away a deflected effort from Kosta Barbarouses just after the hour-mark.
Another delay followed after George broke the net with a powerful shot, before Berisha completed his perfect hat-trick.
George played in Terry Antonis down the left and the midfielder crossed to the back post, where Berisha headed in.
Victory made it 5-0 thanks to Theoharous, who scored his first goal for the club after coming on.
Williams played a wonderful cross-field pass and the 18-year-old fired a superb finish in off the post.
While Pain scored a late brace for the Mariners, Victory closed out a strong win.
Player in focus
What they said – Theoharous
on his goal…
“Obviously the first touch wasn’t great, but I got it under control eventually and just hit it with my left foot and it went in I guess.”
on his game time…
“The three points is what we’re looking for every week and the gaffer, it’s up to him, and the boys put in a good shift tonight and we obviously got the result.”
on beating defenders…
“He wants me to express myself and be positive all the time and I do all I can to get the three points.”
Melbourne Victory 5 (Leroy George 15′, Besart Berisha 25’/54’/74′, Christian Theoharous 83′)
Central Coast Mariners 2 (Connor Pain 87’/90+7′)
Melbourne Victory: Thomas (gk), Deng (Nigro 61′), Williams, Donachie, Broxham, Sanchez (Theoharous 79′), Valeri (c), Troisi (Antonis 72′), Barbarouses, Berisha, George
Central Coast Mariners: Kennedy (gk), McGing, Poscoliero (Melling 78′), Golec (Rowles 41′), McGing, Rose, Brama (c), De Silva, Hoole, Powell (Buhagiar 78′), Pain
Yellow cards: Sanchez 32′, George 78′
Red cards: Nil
Venue: AAMI Park
Victory makes the trip to Perth in Round 24, visiting Glory on Sunday, March 25.