Roar beat Phoenix go to second in A-League
Any doubts this season's Brisbane Roar are less of a threat than last season's were dispelled as they beat Wellington Phoenix to tighten their grip on the A-League finals double chance.
The Roar were clinical in their finishing, expansive in their football, and goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos was superb when the Phoenix applied second-half pressure in a 2-0 win at New Zealand's Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
The defending champions leapfrog the Phoenix and sit second, just five points behind competition leaders Central Coast Mariners.
Superbly-taken goals to Besart Berisha and Mitch Nichols gave the Roar the three points, as they produced their football-playing best.
With the Phoenix prepared to sit back, Brisbane punished the home side through a sweetly-struck volley from Berisha just before halftime - though there was a hint of offside about it.
Theoklitos twice pulled off superb second-half saves to deny Phoenix dangerman Paul Ifill.
But the match was put beyond doubt with 10 minutes remaining when substitute Nichols - back from Olyroos duty - thundered a long-range shot into the top corner to seal a deserved win.
"I thought we were really patient in the first half, and took our chances well - they were two quality goals," Roar coach Ange Postecoglou told New Zealand's Sky Sport television.
With the Mariners and Roar looking over the line, the bottleneck for the other top-six spots tightened with the weekend's other results.
Newcastle Jets' 3-0 hammering of Melbourne Heart and Sydney FC's 2-1 win over Perth to end the Glory's eight-match unbeaten run have shaken up the fringe of the six.
Glory are fourth, three points clear of the fifth-placed Jets.
The Heart have slipped to sixth, haven't won in their past eight matches and have scored just twice in their past five - suggesting they are most at risk of missing the finals.
Sydney FC (seventh) and Melbourne Victory - excellent 2-1 winners over Central Coast on Friday night - are closing in on the slumping Heart.
The Heart can also expect to lose defender Curtis Good for Friday's home clash with Gold Coast.
Referee Ryan Shepheard failed to send Good off at the end of the match when he picked up a second yellow card - and the match review panel is likely to correct that and issue a one-match ban in its findings on Monday.
"I noticed it immediately but I didn't tell the referee to give him a red card because that is his job. It's now up to the FFA," Heart coach John van `t Schip said after the incident.
There was better news for the Heart with captain Fred playing 30 minutes in the side's youth team on Sunday - his first match back from a groin injury.