Melbourne Victory moved 5 points clear at the top of the A-League ladder with a convincing 4-0 win over fourth-placed Gold Coast United at Etihad Stadium this evening.
The atmosphere was terrific and the chanting crowd of 20,537 sounded more like three times that number.
Melbourne is definitely the heart and soul of the A-League at present.
The only dampener to Melbourne’s win was a serious injury to Grant Brebner, who may have broken his ankle.
Nicky Ward was the man-of-the-match and he was a central figure in most of the Victory’s attacking moves.
Ward scored a superb goal and made another for Archie Thompson.
Gold Coast might have taken the lead in the 9th minute when Jason Culina jinked and feinted on the right before beating his man and crossing to the far post, but Shane Smeltz headed wide from close range.
In the 12th minute, Carlos Hernandez went close for Melbourne when he fired just wide.
Hernandez had two other good chances in the match but was always just off target.
Thompson also had an eventful game, scoring twice and going close on two other occasions.
In the 26th minute, Ward fed Thompson on the right, but the striker’s shot flew wide of the far post.
Two minutes later, Robbie Kruse put Victory ahead with an excellent right-foot drive from 30 metres after a clinical build-up through the middle by the home side.
In the 33rd minute, Ward forced an outstanding save from Gold Coast keeper Scott Higgins.
A minute later, Thompson fired straight at Higgins when he might have scored, while in the 39th minute, Thompson again placed an effort wide of the target.
A minute into stoppage time, Ward capped off an accomplished first-half performance with an excellent goal, his shot from 28 metres flying in off the base of the left-hand post to send Victory in to the break leading 2-0.
Nine minutes after the resumption, Ward played Thompson through down the left of the box with a perceptive pass that cut our five defenders and the striker slipped the ball under the advancing Higgins to make it 3-0.
The cream of the crop in terms of goals came in the 68th minute when Kruse played a one-two with Rodrigo Vargas and then passed to Thompson on the left and he scored with a curling shot inside the far post to make it 4-0.
In the 73rd minute, Gold Coast had a rare chance when James Brown forced keeper Mitchell Langerak, who played against Tasmania’s under-21’s last year, to turn his shot over the bar for a fruitless corner.