Victory moves top

Melbourne Victory has ground out a 2-0 win over Adelaide United at Etihad Stadium to take top spot on the Hyundai A-League ladder and remain on track for the defence of the Premiers' Plate.

Melbourne Victory has ground out a 2-0 win over Adelaide United at Etihad Stadium to take top spot on the Hyundai A-League ladder and remain on track for the defence of the Premiers' Plate.

While it wasn't the defending champions' most emphatic performance of the year, Melbourne snatched a very early lead through Tom Pondeljak after just 22 seconds of the match and held onto it until Kevin Muscat scored a last-minute penalty to take their winning streak against Adelaide to nine straight.

Their success put them on top of the table and while Sydney can take top again with a win over Newcastle on Sunday, Melbourne has a game in hand against Wellington on Tuesday, where a win would put it clear by a minimum of two points with three matches remaining.

The defeat means Adelaide, which remains bottom, is now eight points adrift of the top six and will likely miss the finals after finishing second last season. But Aurelio Vidmar can at least take some heart that the Reds put up an honourable performance against a team which is looming as the one to beat again this season.

Melbourne had the lead inside the first minute with the Adelaide defence caught napping by the home side's rapid ball movement. Carlos Hernandez set Archie Thompson free and his pass fell to Pondeljak on the right. The veteran's first shot hit the post, but his second deflected of an unlucky Eugene Galekovic and into the net after just 22 seconds.

It was the clear highlight of a dour first 30 minutes of the game which featured more action off the ball than on it. Three Reds players were booked in the first-half, Adam Hughes, Mark Rudan and Daniel Mullen, while Adrian Leijer also drew the attention of a busy Matthew Breeze.

Adelaide best first-half chance fell to Travis Dodd on 33 minutes, but the skipper shot over from close range. Hughes forced a save from Mitchell Langerak and Lloyd Owusu was denied by some strong defence by Leijer.

But much of the attacking action was up the other end. Robbie Kruse went close on two occasions, while Hernandez and Thompson both tested out Galekovic but found the keeper more than equal to their fierce first-half shots.

Melbourne pressed hard for a second goal in the first 20 minutes of the second half and only poor finishing and some good work from Galekovic kept Adelaide in the match.

Robbie Kruse had a penalty appeal turned down and then missed an excellent chance just before the hour, while Nick Ward went close twice in a few minutes, first finding the keeper, then shooting just wide.

Adelaide had its chances to get a point out of the game when first Hughes failed to beat Langerak one on one and then substitute Fabian Barbiero was afforded a free header but shot wide.

Melbourne brought Marvin Angulo on for Kruse and the Costa Rican was only denied his first Hyundai A-League goal by the out-stretched fingers of Galekovic. Compatriot Hernandez also wasted a late chance before Thompson won a penalty in the final seconds of the game.

Muscat made it three goals in as many games as Melbourne continued its remarkable run over the Reds, who have now won just one of their past 17 matches against their rivals.

Melbourne Victory 1 (Pondeljak 1, Muscat 93) Adelaide United 0 Crowd: 20,361 at Etihad Stadium