Melbourne Victory start the new year on the verge of the A-League top six and high on confidence, after a dominant 4-0 win over Newcastle at AAMI Park.
Robbie Kruse turned in a match-winning performance, having a hand in three goals and scoring one – with Migjen Basha and Andrew Nabbout also finding the net, while Matt Millar scored an own-goal for the Jets.
There had been pressure on Marco Kurz’s side after a lacklustre start to the season but, despite consecutive impressive wins, the Victory coach wasn’t getting carried away.
“I wasn’t crazy when we lost and I’m not crazy when we win a game,” Kurz said.
“I know it’s a hard and a long way. You saw the game today – it was hard work. After 65 minutes, we decided the game but, before, it was equal, especially in the first half.
“If we are very focused for the rest of the season, we can play a good season but we have to perform week-to-week and that’s always my goal – not to think or to watch too (far) forward. That makes no sense.
“I think next week we have a strong away game against Central Coast and we must be ready for this game.”
Victory will be without defender Tim Hoogland for close to a month after knee surgery – with Kurz undecided whether the club will look for a replacement in the transfer market – while skipper Ola Toivonen (groin) is no certainty to face the Mariners on Sunday.
Meanwhile, things won’t get any easier for the Jets, as they have a five-day turnaround to face competition leaders Sydney FC.
Newcastle are winless in five games, conceding 17 goals and scoring just four.
Coach Ernie Merrick said his side’s difficulties in front of goal had been just as frustrating as their leaky defence.
“I just think that there’s a lot of players out there that are much better than the way they’re playing but, because we don’t score, the frustration builds up,” he said.
“It’s very important that you get an end product at some stage.”
Merrick said he wasn’t feeling pressure on his position and cited the importance of getting injured trio Wes Hoolahan, Abdiel Arroyo and Nigel Boogaard back in his squad.
Wellington made it eight games unbeaten and jumped to fourth place with a 2-1 home win on Saturday over Central Coast.
Gary Hooper opened the scoring, before David Ball eluded a number of defenders to create the Phoenix’s second – although the goal was awarded to Ulises Davila – before the Mariners pulled one back via a Luke DeVere own-goal.
On Saturday night, Sydney FC accounted for Adelaide United 2-1 at Kogarah.
Paulo Retre scored a brace for the Sky Blues, while Riley McGree goaled on his return from a knee injury in a consolation effort for the Reds.
On Friday night, Melbourne City almost let a three-goal lead slip late but held on for a 3-2 win over Western United to consolidate their hold on second place.
Jamie Maclaren scored a double, while Adrian Luna buried a fine volley to give City a 3-0 halftime lead. United pulled back two goals from the spot courtesy of Besart Berisha and Alessandro Diamanti, while City had Harrison Delbridge sent off – after a VAR review – for denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
On New Year’s Day, Brisbane piled the pressure on Western Sydney with a 2-1 win at Bankwest Stadium.
Mitch Duke opened the scoring, then Scott Neville for the Roar, before Brad Inman rifled home a delightful goal in the 61st minute to hand Robbie Fowler’s side all three points.
Perth had the bye.