Victory get jump in premiers' race

Melbourne Victory have put the pressure back on Adelaide in the race for the Hyundai A-League premiership, with the Reds needing to beat Central Coast by two goals on Sunday after the Victory's 2-0 win over Wellington at Telstra Dome.

Melbourne Victory have put the pressure back on Adelaide in the race for the Hyundai A-League premiership, with the Reds needing to beat Central Coast by two goals on Sunday after the Victory's 2-0 win over Wellington at Telstra Dome.

The result means the Phoenix's season stops here, and the Mariners are guaranteed fourth, but the margin means that Adelaide must win by two for it to finish top and take the Premiers Plate and a spot in the 2010 AFC Champions League.

Considering all the talk on the need for attacking football in the lead-up to this match, there was a paucity of chances. Melbourne played below its lofty standards, while Wellington was unlucky not to get something out of the game.

It was a 40th-minute Kevin Muscat penalty which gave Melbourne the upper hand, while Archie Thompson gave the Reds a target to chase after his 90th-minute effort. Melbourne finishes the season on 38 points and is guaranteed a top-two spot and the double chance which comes with it.

Either side could have scored inside the first 10 minutes, with Billy Celeski hitting the side netting in the fourth minute and then Ben Sigmund having a close-range shot blocked by the Victory defence.

The visitors created as many chances as the home side in the first 35 minutes with Shane Smeltz and Leo Bertos both firing long-range efforts straight at Michael Theoklitos.

Carlos Hernandez was Melbourne's busiest player in the first half and he curled a shot over and then forced some scrambling defence from Manny Muscat.

After a period of consolidation from both sides, Matthew Kemp took control, running hard into the Melbourne box, only to be met by Sigmund and Manny Muscat. Strebe Delovski pointed to the spot and Kevin Muscat hit the penalty low and hard to Glen Moss' left.

With their tails up, the Victory proceeded to pepper the goals for the rest of the half, the best effort a brilliant shot from Nick Ward which produced an even better save from Moss.

Ten minutes into the second half, Melbourne should have had a second. Danny Allsopp couldn't beat Moss from close range, while Hernandez skied the follow-up.

Wellington then had a series of excellent chances to equalise just after the hour mark, with three consecutive shots blocked, the best of them from Jon McKain. The first was blocked by Kevin Muscat, but the second and third were stopped by their own player in Smeltz.

Melbourne did its best work on the counterattack but Thompson couldn't find the target from a tight angle on 75 minutes, while Wellington threatened the goal for much of the final 15 minutes.

Bertos stretched Theoklitos with a long-range shot up the other end, but Thompson settled it with a typical poacher's effort which was brilliantly-finished.

Bursting clear, he wrong-footed Moss and the defender for his first-ever goal against Wellington in what might prove a premiership-winning goal.

Merrick said that while it wasn't the best display, the result was all that he wanted at the end of the day.

"We didn't play our best football, but we've come away with the full three points. We had a clean sheet, we scored two goals and we pulled in a fantastic crowd."

While Wellington came up short of the result it needed to maintain its run for the finals, coach Ricki Herbert was pleased with his side's performance.

"I think it was a very good performance by us tonight," he said. "Overall, in the second half, I thought we controlled the game."

Melbourne Victory 2 (Muscat 40p, Thompson 90) Welington Phoenix 0 Crowd: 28,905 at Telstra Dome