Melbourne Victory demolished Central Coast Mariners 4-1 to surge up to second place on the A-League ladder during a one-sided contest at AAMI Park on Wednesday night.
In energy-sapping first half conditions, an own goal to Jake McGing (28') was all that separated the sides going into the break.
But three goals in nine minutes - including a two-minute brace to Marco Rojas (58’, 59’) – did the damage in the second half against a Mariners side bereft of ideas.
Former Brisbane Roar defender James Donachie (50') kicked off the second stanza spree with his first goal in Victory colours before Rojas piled more misery on the Mariners.
Fahid Ben Khalfallah was at the heart of the home side’s best moves.
Only a debut goal for 85th minute sub Trent Buhagiar four minutes after coming on stopped it from being a totally demoralising outing for the Gosford outfit.
The result sees Victory, still with a game in hand, leapfrog Brisbane into second place, while the Mariners notched up their fourth defeat on the trot to stay in ninth spot on the ladder.
Meanwhile Victory marksman, Besart Berisha, will have to wait to grab his piece of history after failing to add to his goal tally on the night.
With joint goal scoring record-holder and retired Victory player Archie Thompson watching on from the stands the Albanian looked like he had grabbed the all-time A-League strike record in the first half.
The Albanian celebrated his 91st history-making goal before replays showed McGing had steered Berisha's shot into his own net.
Ben Khalfallah had a golden opportunity to get Victory onto the front foot in the 19th minute when Jason Geria’s low cross found the Tunisian only for his shot to be denied by Paul Izzo.
Nine minutes later a McGing own goal put Victory in front after Ben Khalfallah’s cross found Berisha whose shot in front of goal cannoned off the 22-year-old's feet into the net.
With four minutes remaining in the first half the Mariners’ only real chance of the opening stanza came when Scott Galloway’s ball to Fabio Ferreira whose shot was parried by Lawrence Thomas. The ball landed for Roy O’Donovan, but on an acute angle the Irishman could only find the side-netting.
Victory recovered well after the break and punished some slack defending by the Mariners. James Troisi’s free kick found an unmarked Donachie in the box and the big defender headed home to double the lead.
It got worse for the Mariners who conceded twice in quick succession before the hour mark. An error in midfield led to a counter-attack, as Ben Khalfallah dribbled past Izzo and squared it to Rojas for an easy tap in.
Two minutes later Victory made it 4-0 through Rojas again after Ben Khalfallah’s long ball found the Kiwi who walked it in.
Victory continued to pile on the pressure and in the 69th minute it was evident the Tunisian wanted a goal after his shot was denied by Izzo.
A last minute consolation was scored beautifully by Buhagiar who claimed his maiden goal for the Mariners.
Victory return home on January 2 to face Newcastle Jets while it doesn't get any easier for the Mariners who face Melbourne City away on New Year’s Eve.
VICTORY 4 (McGing o.g. 28’, Donachie 50’, Rojas 58’, 59’)
MARINERS 1 (Buhagiar 89’)
Melbourne Victory: 20. THOMAS Lawrence, 2. GERIA Jason, 6. BROXHAM Leigh, 7. ROJAS Marco (63’ INGHAM Jai), 8. BERISHA Besart (76’ 9. BEISTER Maxi), 10. TROISI James (5. 73’ GEORGIEVSKI Daniel), 13. BOZANIC Ollie, 14. BEN KHALFALLAH Fahid, 15. BARO Alan, 17. DONACHIE James, 21. VALERI Carl
Central Coast Mariners: 20. IZZO Paul, 3. GALLOWAY Scott, 6. POWELL Blake, 7. FABIO FERREIRA (62’ 14. BERRY Adam), 8. MONTGOMERY Nick, 9. O’DONOVAN Roy, 11. PAIN Connor (85’ 12. BUHAGIAR Trent), 16. ROSE Liam (62’ 13. APPIAH-KUBI Kwabena), 19. FATY Jacques, 21. NEILL Michael, 22. McGing Jake