Melbourne routs Gold Coast

Melbourne Victory have comprehensively swept aside an under-strength Gold Coast United side 4-0 at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night in their best performance of the season to consolidate their spot on top of the Hyundai A-League table.

Melbourne Victory have comprehensively swept aside an under-strength Gold Coast United side 4-0 at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night in their best performance of the season to consolidate their spot on top of the Hyundai A-League table.

Gold Coast was missing most of its first-choice defence through either injury or suspension and Melbourne took full advantage with cracking goals from both Robbie Kruse and Nick Ward in the first half, followed up by a brace from Archie Thompson early in the second half.

The win allows the defending champions to open a six-point gap between themselves and third position, which is currently held by Central Coast on goal difference ahead of Gold Coast United.

The comprehensive nature of the victory also helps clear the doubts over Melbourne's home form, which now reads three wins, three losses and three draws from nine games.

Gold Coast has now slipped back a position on the table and into negative goal difference for the first time this season and injury concerns remain over several key players ahead of next week's match against the Mariners.

There was no shortage of chances inside the first 20 minutes, with the home side creating most of them. Inside the first minute, Kruse botched an excellent opportunity and then delivered a cross for Thompson to head wide.

Shane Smeltz did a similar thing up the other end, when he got on the end of Jason Culina's excellent cross on nine minutes, while a busy Carlos Hernandez fired wide with one shot and over with the next. He would get one on target on 21 minutes, but it was straight at Scott Higgins.

When Thompson then squandered a fantastic chance, it looked as is if it wasn't to be Melbourne's day, but on 28 minutes, Kruse changed all that with a fantastic goal. The youngster was afforded far too much space and after being fed by Grant Brebner turned and shot. Higgins could only get a hand on the ball as it rocketed into the net.

The goal didn't change Melbourne's attacking mindset and after Hernandez shot just wide from a free kick, Higgins was called into action twice to thwart Ward and then Thompson. Thompson was just about the busiest player on the park and he curled a ripping shot just wide on 40 minutes.

In first-half injury time, he put in a clever run and knocked it back for Ward for the second goal. Ward latched onto the ball about 22 yards out and the ball beat Higgins, hit the upright and went in the net.

The only negative aspect of the half for Melbourne was a serious injury to Brebner, who left the field on a stretcher to be replaced by Leigh Broxham. Gold Coast had already replaced an injured Steve Fitzsimmons with James Brown.

To add to Gold Coast's misery, Joel Porter then came off injured early in the second half, replaced by Golgol Mebrahtu, who immediately headed an excellent chance over the top. Smeltz followed suit minutes later, missing a gettable shot for the second time in the match.

The match was all but over on 54 minutes when Ward returned the favour to Thompson, hitting a perfectly-weighted pass through for the striker to spring the offside trap and convert from a tight angle for his seventh of the season.

Fourteen minutes later, Rody Vargas got forward to involve himself with the fourth goal, laying off for Kruse who then found Thompson, who netted with a powerful shot.

With 20 minutes to go, Brown came close to getting Gold Coast off the mark, forcing a good save from an otherwise untroubled Mitch Langerak, while a frustrated Culina could only shoot over late in the match.

Meanwhile, Melbourne continued to push for a fifth goal and while that endeavour came to naught it still had its biggest win of the season and its first clean sheet at home.

Melbourne Victory 4 (Kruse 38, Ward 45, Thompson 54, 68) Gold Coast United 0 Crowd: 20,537 at Etihad Stadium