Title race still wide open

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has refused to concede it's a two-horse race between the Victory and Sydney FC for the Hyundai A-League title, despite the two teams opening up an important break over the chasing pack in this round.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has refused to concede it's a two-horse race between the Victory and Sydney FC for the Hyundai A-League title, despite the two teams opening up an important break over the chasing pack in this round.

In two emphatic performances on Sunday afternoon, Sydney FC slammed home three goals in the first half to defeat Wellington 3-1 and maintain its position atop the league table with 25 points.

Not to be outdone, the second-placed Victory returned fire with a solid performance in Perth, breaking a three-year hoodoo at ME Bank Stadium as Carlos Hernandez helped fired Melbourne to a 2-1 win over the Glory.

The results sees Melbourne with 24 points now enjoying a four-point break over a stuttering Gold Coast United in third, while the Victorians are seven points clear of Central Coast and Perth at the halfway point of the season.

The win also sees Melbourne having won six of its last seven matches after its worst start to a season ever, the only loss coming to Sydney FC in Round 10.

But Merrick was refusing to talk up his side's title chances, despite conceding that playmaker Hernandez and striker Archie Thompson were in career-best form.

"It's probably a bit early to say that (it's a two-horse race)," Merrick said.

"Sydney's a good side, they're winning, so it's good that we're keeping up with them and just sitting in behind them."

"This is the heart of the season when you're depth is well and truly tested ... it's good to see we've got the sort of depth that's getting us the points."

"All the teams would like to be in the top two because they're the only real sides that get the double chance. (So) we're on track for that but it's about consistency of performance."

Merrick was particularly impressed his side kept its head during the first half. The Victorians may have taken the lead through Hernandez's deflected strike in the sixth minute, but once Perth equalised through Mile Sterjovski in the 19th minute, the Glory dominated proceedings but couldn't find a clinical touch in front of goal.

Having beaten off Perth's best efforts, the Victory produced a composed second half, where Thompson's tireless work rate and Hernandez's skill set up numerous opportunities before the Costa Rican slipped in a 67th-minute winner from Nathan Elasi's cross.

"They scored probably against the run of play but I thought we were very strong after that," Merrick said.

"We can't control a game for 90 minutes, it's weathering the storm and in the second half we created a number of one-on-ones."

"Perth's a good side on home soil but very satisfying to put on a performance like that and get all three points."

As for Hernandez, the midfielder has moved up to six goals for the season and in an ominous warning to the competition believes he's playing the best football of his career.

The 27-year-old also feels he's on track for a position in Costa Rica's World Cup squad, as long as he keeps banging in goals for Melbourne.

"Physically I feel a lot better than past years," he said through team-mate Rody Vargas, acting as an interpreter.

"I'm playing 90 minutes week in, week out which for me is important and I feel better than ever."

"First and foremost I want to be doing his job for the Melbourne Victory. It's the pinnacle for any player to play at the World Cup but it's important to be playing well for the Victory and the rest will come if it does happen."