Rojas, Phoenix outclass Victory

Wellington Phoenix produced their best performance of the season to down Melbourne Victory 2-0 in a dominant display at Westpac Stadium on Wednesday night.

Wellington Phoenix produced their best performance of the season to down Melbourne Victory 2-0 in a dominant display at Westpac Stadium on Wednesday night.

Marco Rojas was the star of the show as he tormented the Victory defence from the first whistle until he was substituted with just a couple of minutes to go.

The livewire midfielder set up the first goal and scored the second as his pace and skill on the ball had even his team-mates guessing at times.

The Phoenix had a plethora of chances before they broke the deadlock in the 67th minute when Dylan Macallister bundled the ball home.

Rojas rifled home a second in the 72nd minute to seal a fitting result for Ricki Herbert's 100th Hyundai A-League game as coach.

More importantly the Phoenix closed the gap on sixth-placed Melbourne Heart to one point in the race for the play-offs.

"I think it's the best performance since we've been here," said a delighted Herbert. "I have to say that because it was 100 games for me tonight!"

"I thought we were terrific. I thought things really came together and the application of the players was first class."

Both teams made their attacking intentions clear from the start. But it was the Phoenix, sparked by Rojas, who had the better of the early chances.

Rojas was everywhere, turning the Victory defence - missing Kevin Muscat - inside out with some mazy runs and some deft crossing into the box.

In the 10th minute he crossed the ball into the feet of Tim Brown but his shot was deflected over by a despairing Rodi Vargas.

While that was the Phoenix's best chance of the opening 15 minutes, at the other end Carlos Hernandez wasted a golden opportunity for the visitors after Ricardinho, starting in place of Robbie Kruse (international duty), had broken down the right flank and dragged the ball back from the byline.

But last year's Hyundai A-League player of the year squirted his shot straight at Danny Vukovic in the Phoenix goal.

Wellington continued to pour forward and were helped by Manny Muscat switching back to his defensive midfield role following Tony Lochhead's return at left-back which freed up Vince Lia and Brown.

A Rojas corner then saw Andrew Durante fire an overhead kick just wide before the Wellington skipper got on the end of a Lia long ball only to head straight at Michael Petkovic, who was by far the busier of the two keepers.

Victory coach Ernie Merrick's patience finally ran out with his side and he dragged Marvin Angulo off in the 35th minute and replaced him with Danny Allsopp, back in Melbourne after his recent transfer from the United States Major Soccer League.

It did little to slow the Phoenix though and they rounded off an entertaining first half with Nick Ward and Rojas combining to set up Brown whose diving header went just wide - although he appeared to be offside.

The second half began with more of the same from both teams. Rojas continued to torment Tomislav Pondeljak, playing in the unfamiliar right-back slot, and couldn't make their chances count.

Ben Sigmund had a great opportunity in the 52nd minute when Lochhead floated a long ball crossfield to Durante on the edge of the box. He headed the ball into Sigmund but Petkovic smothered the shot.

The Victory keeper pulled off another smart save to deny Lia a minute later and was called into action again when Rojas ran hard into the box and unleashed a fierce shot which was tipped over.

The breakthrough for the home side finally came in the 67 minute when Rojas' cross found Macallister by the far post and although his header was parried away by Petkovic, the big striker got his left foot to it to bundle the ball home by the post.

Having set up the first, Rojas got the goal his performance deserved to double the Phoenix's lead on 72 minutes.

Ward and Macallister were both involved in the build-up with the striker laying off the ball in the box to his young team-mate who rifled his shot past a despondent Petkovic.

The Victory had a chance to close the gap not long afterwards but Ricardinho shot straight at Vukovic in what turned out to be the visitors' last throw of the dice.

"We're very disappointed. We've had seven games undefeated and we certainly deserved to lose tonight," conceded Merrick.

"I think if it hadn't been for Adrian (Leijer), Rodi (Vargas) and especially Michael Petkovic it could have been much worse."