Victory edge out Mariners

Central Coast has suffered its first defeat on the road this season in the Hyundai A-League as Melbourne Victory opened up a six point lead at the top of the table following a thrilling come-from-behind 2-1 win at Telstra Dome on Friday night.

Central Coast has suffered its first defeat on the road this season in the Hyundai A-League as Melbourne Victory opened up a six point lead at the top of the table following a thrilling come-from-behind 2-1 win at Telstra Dome on Friday night.

On a night when the closed roof at Melbourne's indoor venue came in handy as the rain pelted down outside, the two top teams went head-to-head in a battle of contrasting styles.

While the Victory relied on their trademark passing game, the visitors attempted to batter the home side's defence into submission with a series of long balls into the box and a succession of corners throughout the first half - at one stage five in a row - that the home side had trouble dealing with.

The respective first half goals in fact summed up the contrasting styles of the two teams.

After Victory had largely dominated the opening half an hour, it was the visitors that took the lead when Melbourne's shakiness at defending from set pieces proved costly.

A free kick from John Hutchison that was closer to the halfway line than to the penalty box did not appear to be dangerous but his pinpoint left foot delivery eluded everybody, including Melbourne goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos to stun the 21,455 strong home crowd into temporary silence.

But Melbourne Victory did not have to wait long for the equaliser and when it came it was certainly worth waiting for as a familiar face came back to haunt the Mariners.

Veteran Tom Pondeljak, who spent three seasons and scored seven goals from 55 appearances for the Mariners, played a delightful one/two with Archie Thompson in the 37th minute and capped off the move with a scintillating volley into the bottom left hand corner which Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic got a hand to but could not keep out.

It was Pondeljak's first goal for Melbourne and it was the least the Victory deserved having carved out most of the better chances early on.

As early as the fourth minute and Victory defender Roddy Vargas wasted a free header at the back post while Thompson was put through in the 16th minute by a fine pass from Danny Allsopp but Vukovic was quickly off his line to smother the shot.

But the visitors had been warned and when the classy Thompson was put in behind the Central Coast defence again after half-time - in the 60th minute thanks to Billy Celeski - this time he made no mistake in rifling a shot beyond Vukovic to give the Victory the lead.

That goal - Thompson's eighth in ten matches against the Mariners - seemed to knock the stuffing out of the visitors and far from trying to hold onto their lead Melbourne from then on looked like extending it with just about every attacking foray.

The win was Melbourne's third in a row, having beaten both Adelaide and Queensland on the road since their last home loss against Sydney in late October, and this results takes the Victory six points clear on top although that will be cut to at least five and possibly three depending on the result of the Adelaide-Sydney clash at Hindmarsh on Saturday night.