Victory beat Mariners with Kewell winner
A moment of Harry Kewell magic has re-ignited Melbourne Victory's season, sparking an upset 2-1 win over A-League leaders Central Coast Mariners on Friday night.
Kewell scored a sublime second half winner for the Victory after they had fought back from a goal down.
The Socceroo's brilliant left-footed downward volley six minutes after halftime gave his side a lead.
And the Mariners were further hobbled when they went down to 10 men following defender Trent Sainsbury's 62nd minute send-off for a late challenge on Victory's Fabio.
Victory coach Jim Magilton posted his first win in his sixth match with the club on a night of quality goals.
The Victory, who have struggled all season, now move to the edge of the top six and gave a deft display of the attacking menace they have lacked for the most of the season.
The Mariners remain seven points clear atop the table, but their lead could be cut by second-placed Wellington or third-placed Brisbane when those two clash at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
Magilton unveiled a radically changed starting 11, with centre-back Mark Milligan moved into a holding midfield role, youngster Jimmy Jeggo alongside him and new Spanish signing Ubay Luzardo in central defence.
But it was restoring Carlos Hernandez - benched for the past two games - to central midfield which proved decisive.
After impressive Mariners youngster Tomas Rogic scored a superb opener on nine minutes, running at the Victory defence, making space, and finishing beautifully, Hernandez levelled things up with a goal equally as brilliant as Kewell's.
Hernandez launched a right-footed thunderbolt, meeting a neat Marco Rojas cut-back from the right with speed and precision to send the ball spiralling in off the post.
Kewell then gave the Victory a lead with a technique-laden goal, setting the nerves on edge for a side whose season has been characterised by late train wrecks to throw away points.
The visitors had their chances to equalise - the best on 55 minutes when Adam Kwasnik shot over the bar when gifted a chance through a defensive error.
But the Victory upped the tempo against the under-manned Mariners in the last ten minutes, with Archie Thompson and substitute Danny Allsopp forcing good late saves from Central Coast keeper Justin Pasfield.
Mariners coach Graham Arnold said he was disappointed with Sainsbury's send-off, with television replays showing the challenge was probably a yellow card at worst.
But he was thrilled how the Mariners performed with five regular first-team players missing in a high-quality match against top opposition.
"(The send-off) is a little bit hard to take ... but it was a great spectacle. Melbourne Victory were fantastic and that's the best we've played football-wise in quite a while," Arnold said.
"That's part of football. You get bad decisions in football, but things go round in cycles. Next week it could be totally different for us."
Magilton was pleased with his team's character to fight back from a goal down and the first long passages of the football he wants the Victory to play weekly.
"We got a goal behind, we showed great character, we passed the ball well," Magilton said.
"We haven't won a second half this year, and we won the second half ... I know how hard the players have worked on a daily basis and I'm really, really pleased for everyone."