Phoenix turn on the style to hammer Melbourne

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 21:30 18/01/2014
Kenny Cunningham
Getty Images
WONDER STRIKE: Kenny Cunningham scored a contender for the goal of the season, Wellington Phoenix beat Melbourne Victory 5-0.

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These are not your father's Phoenix.

No, your dad's lot lived in a state of siege, were entirely risk averse, often strangers to possession and utterly awful to watch.

The new breed play in the same yellow and black strip, otherwise there isn't the slightest resemblance to the old Phoenix teams which so often stunk up the A-League.

It was two-time league champions, the Melbourne Victory, who came to Wellington's Westpac Stadium tonight, with a justified reputation as being one of the great football-playing sides of this competition. 

And they got taken to the cleaners by Ernie Merrick's Phoenix men, losing 5-0 on a night when the home side looked likely from the first whistle.

Few people could have expected a performance, and result, as comprehensive as this - even Merrick, the man who guided the Victory to those titles and was basically brought back from the coaching wilderness by the Phoenix.

He'd probably be the first to tell you, though, that he knew something special was brewing at his new club, who came into this match on a four-game unbeaten run, which included beating the Western Sydney Wanderers 3-1 at Pirtek Stadium.

But the domination the Phoenix enjoyed here at home, particularly while Carlos Hernandez was on the park, was something else again.

The Costa Rican, who was surprisingly subbed after 50 minutes having scored two goals and had a hand in the other, tormented his former club. 

Hernandez might not get up and down the park like some, but he oozes quality and applies it liberally when the mood takes him.

The Phoenix had threatened long before Hernandez gave them the lead in the 18th minute, when he picked the ball up just inside the Victory penalty area, took a touch and then drilled a right-foot shot across goalkeeper Nathan Coe and into the bottom corner.

Chances continued to come and it was Hernandez's fellow Costa Rican, Kenny Cunningham, who took the next. 

Played in by Hernandez, about 10-metres outside the Victory's area, Cunningham let fly with a volley that dipped and swerved beyond Coe to put the Phoenix up 2-0.

All the while, the Victory's much-vaunted quartet of Archie Thompson, Gui Finkler, James Troisi and Kosta Barbarouses, who was continually booed by a good chunk of the 6813 crowd, could barely get a touch.

Playing in his home town, Barbarouses was as lively as any of them on the rare occasions his team were in a position to try and play.

The Phoenix were having no such problems and it was Hernandez who sealed all three points, in first half added time.

Cunningham looked like he might conjure something down the left, before Hernandez nicked the ball off him, ducked into the penalty area and made the most of some contact from Rashid Mahazi. 
Referee Adam Kersey pointed to the spot and, after sending Coe the wrong way, Hernandez made it 3-0.

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The Phoenix were worth every one of the goals and you wonder how many they might've mustered in the second half, had Hernandez played more of it. 

He looked very grumpy with Merrick and there was none of the handshakes or hugs that players and coaches usually exchange when a star performer gets an early bath.

The smile was back by fulltime, though, as Jeremy Brockie and Stein Huysegems goals capped off a performance by which all Phoenix performances will now be judged.

Wellington Phoenix 5 (Carlos Hernandez 18', 45', Kenny Cunningham 44', Jeremy Brockie 85', Stein Huysegems 87') Melbourne Victory 0. HT: 3-0. Crowd: 6813. 

- Fairfax Media

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