Rojas brace sets up 3-2 win over Phoenix


Melbourne Victory climbed off the bottom of the Hyundai A-League ladder with a 3-2 win over Wellington Phoenix at Etihad Stadium on Monday night.

Melbourne Victory climbed off the bottom of the Hyundai A-League ladder with a 3-2 win over Wellington Phoenix at Etihad Stadium on Monday night.

A brace from Marco Rojas, on the day of his 21st birthday, and a Marcos Flores goal proved the difference as Victory put in their best performance yet under coach Ange Postecoglou in front of 20,683 fans on Melbourne Cup eve.

Phoenix, who have not beaten Victory since January 2011 and never won in Melbourne, were thoroughly exploited in defence, but breathed life back into the contest with two late goals from Jeremy Brockie.

Victory striker Archie Thompson was as lively as ever up front with support from Rojas and Flores, while Brazilian midfielder Gui Finkler was impressive in his return from a groin injury.

Mark Milligan and Billy Celeski formed a formidable partnership in the midfield, and new goalkeeper Nathan Coe looked settled in his second appearance for Victory, despite Brockie’s best efforts late on.

Victory are sixth after five rounds with two wins and three losses, six points behind leaders Adelaide United, while Wellington have slipped to eighth.

Postecoglou made two changes to the side that were beaten by the Newcastle Jets last week, with Finkler replacing Jonathan Bru and Diogo Ferreira coming in for Matthew Foschini, who was dropped from the squad completely.

Wellington made just one forced change, with Kiwi international defender Michael Boxall making his third Hyundai A-League appearance for the suspended Ben Sigmund, who was controversially sent off in last week’s loss to Adelaide United.

The Victory faithful paid tribute to retired striker Danny Allsopp before the match and they almost had reason to celebrate eight minutes in when Rojas played a precise ball through to Archie Thompson, who fired his shot just wide with only goalkeeper Mark Paston to beat.

Flores broke through the Phoenix defence moments later, but was left to rue a heavy touch just outside the box that gave Paston enough time to collect the loose ball.

Boxall was cautioned in the 12th minute for blatantly pulling on Thompson’s shirt as Victory began to dominate possession and control the tempo of the game.

Thompson had a golden opportunity to opening the scoring when Milligan pushed forward and fired a low cross, but the Socceroos striker was unable to make contact with the ball.

Phoenix had a similar chance at the other end soon after, with Louis Fenton delivering a brilliant cross that missed the outstretched boot of Belgium international Stein Huysegems by just centimetres.

Victory broke the deadlock after 23 minutes when Finkler found Thompson with a precise pass on the edge of the area. Thompson worked his way around Paston and calmly played the ball into the path of Rojas, who chose not to celebrate after scoring as a mark of respect to his former side.

Flores doubled the advantage in the 38th minute when he delightfully combined with Finkler before curling a shot off the outside of his right boot that flew past a hapless Paston and will likely be a contender for goal of the season.

Victory extended their lead just after the interval when Milligan found Thompson with a brilliant through ball. Thompson sprinted clear of the Phoenix defence and found Rojas, who found the back of the net with ease.

Thompson should have added another goal minutes later when Victory created a four-on-three opportunity in front of the target, but he uncharacteristically sent his shot high and wide.

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert introduced Benjamin Totori, Tyler Boyd and Vince Lia in a bid to freshen up his team and the trio triggered a swing in momentum that breathed life into the contest.

Boxall had a chance to grab a goal for the visitors, but his powerful header was expertly tipped over the bar by Coe.

Boyd and Brockie also missed opportunities for Wellington, before Brockie eventually found the net with a stunning shot from outside the area that beating a diving Coe with nine minutes to go.

Brockie reduced the margin to a solitary goal in stoppage time with a cracking free kick, but it proved too late as Phoenix slumped to their eighth loss from 13 attempts in Melbourne.

Next up for Victory are heated rivals Sydney FC in what shapes as a blockbuster clash at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, while Wellington play host to the Central Coast Mariners on Sunday.

Melbourne Victory 3 (Rojas 23, Flores 38, 48)
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Brockie 81, 90+2)
Crowd: 20,683 @ Etihad Stadium