Victory thrash Perth Glory 6-2
Melbourne Victory moved back into second on the A-League table with a bang by thrashing Perth 6-2 on Saturday night at Etihad Stadium, where Robbie Kruse snared a first-half hat-trick.
Kruse's treble came in a 28-minute span during a barnstorming first half by the Victory, who scored inside five minutes thanks to Archie Thompson's trademark speed and finishing.
Up 4-1 at half-time, the Victory added two more late goals through a penalty conversion by skipper Kevin Muscat and Carlos Hernandez's deserved finish 10 minutes before fulltime.
Melbourne's goal-fest was only their second six-goal haul in A-League history.
The first came when they trounced Adelaide 6-0 in the 2007 grand final, when Thompson scored the club's last hat-trick.
The Glory opened their scoring through a Melbourne own-goal in the first half and pulled one back early in the second half through Mile Sterjovski, but paid the price for terrible defending in the first half.
Melbourne's win - their first in four games - avenged back-to-back defeats on the road and meant they leapfrogged the Gold Coast and moved back into second spot, one point behind ladder-leading Sydney.
Thompson opened the scoring when he pounced on Hernandez's through-ball and burned off Perth defender Chris Coyne and beat the keeper.
Kruse scored his first in the 12th minute from another well-weighted Hernandez pass, after Coyne gave the ball up in the middle of the ground.
Thompson produced the brilliance for Kruse's second, when he flicked on Nick Ward's long pass and into the path of Tom Pondeljak, who crossed for Kruse.
Kruse completed his hat-trick in the 40th minute when he seized on another Perth defensive error, this time when Daniel McBreen lost control near the halfway line.
McBreen had just replaced Coyne, whose miserable night was ended when he was substituted shortly after being booked for bumping over Kruse off the ball.
Muscat converted in the 81st minute after Perth skipper Jacob Burns tripped Thompson over, and Hernandez completed the rout when he rolled through a goal two minutes later.
Perth were never in the game, but twice got close, first when Melbourne keeper Mitch Langerak missed Burns' 23rd-minute corner and the ball bounced off Victory defender Roddy Vargas and into the net.
Sterjovski's long-range effort early after half-time gave the visitors some hope until Muscat sealed the win.
The Victory play their next two games at home, against Adelaide next Saturday and Wellington on Australia Day.
The Glory remain among a ruck of teams vying for a spot in the play-offs, and are amid a crucial period, as they play two games in the next six days, against Adelaide on Tuesday (away) and Wellington (home) on Friday.
Victory coach Ernie Merrick was delighted with the result.
"It was an important win, a good win and hopefully the next two are something similar," he said.
Kruse, who was signed from Brisbane last September, said his game came together against Perth, but said the entire side was on song.
"Straight from the whistle, the first five minutes I knew we were going to put in a good performance - our defenders were getting in front of their strikers and winning balls, our midfielders were playing to Carlos and me and Archie were making forward runs," he said.
"That's what Melbourne Victory's all about."
Merrick was in a good mood after the game and labelled his striker's performance "Kruse control", adding that even he enjoyed watching the game.
"I even smiled twice," he said.