Victory A-League hopes slump with Nix loss

Daniel Gilhooly
Ulises Davila (R) has scored the opener Wellington's 3-0 home A-League win over Melbourne Victory

Wellington have farewelled their home supporters with a stylish 3-0 win to almost certainly torpedo the A-League playoff hopes of Melbourne Victory.

The game was played on Sunday in an uncertain atmosphere, given the impact of coronavirus on the league, but there was no doubt who the better team was at Sky Stadium in Wellington.

Goals to prolific attackers, Ulises Davila, Gary Hooper and David Ball, handed the third-placed Phoenix their fourth-straight win and a sixth in a row at home.

It was an appropriately stylish display from the hosts, who made a point to thank their fanbase after fulltime.

Border restrictions to stymie the spread of Covid-19 has left Phoenix management resigned to playing the remainder of their season in Australia, where they look odds-on to participate in the finals.

However, they would first need to undergo self-isolation for 14 days before resuming their campaign, as would Victory, meaning the next two games for both teams would need to be rescheduled.

The Kiwi club sit nine points clear of seventh place and are just a point behind second-placed Melbourne City, with a game in hand.

Victory's 12th loss of the season came off the back of another lacklustre performance. They can finish with no more than 35 points, a tally which historically is not enough to play in the post-season.

Coach Carlos Salvachua didn't want to make excuses for a poor performance but said learning of the Australian government's border announcement soon before kickoff proved confusing for his players and was a probable distraction.

"The players, two minutes before we got to the stadium, we have this message," he said.

"Then we have no more information and we play the game.

"You can imagine, the players, of course they are talking about the game but sometimes talking about the situation, because it was not clear."

Phoenix counterpart Ufuk Talay was pleased with how his team responded when given the same information pre-game.

"I think the players are professionals and, before the game, I told them about keeping focus. We could only control what was in front of us and that was 90 minutes of football.

"I think they did that. They were quite professional and got three points."

The scoring began in the third minute when Davila volleyed home from close range, recording an 11th goal of the season to celebrate the birth of his first child a day earlier in his native Mexico.

Hooper doubled the lead with a brilliant flick header while facing away from goal, the Englishman sending Liberato Cacace's floating cross past a bemused Lawrence Thomas.

Ball's mazy run and strike from the top of the box made it three soon after halftime.

Victory stung the palms of Phoenix goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic a couple of times but were distinctly second best for the most part, mirroring their sluggish finish when conceding four goals last week to leaders Sydney FC.