Fahid Ben Khalfallah of the Victory (left) beats a tackle by Nick Montgomery of the Mariners.
Fahid Ben Khalfallah of the Victory (left) beats a tackle by Nick Montgomery of the Mariners. JOE CASTRO

Clinical Victory put four past Mariners

A FAHID Ben Khalfallah and Marco Rojas-inspired Melbourne Victory has returned to second on the A-League ladder with a clinical win over error-ridden Central Coast.

The Tunisian notched a hat-trick of assists while Rojas netted a brace, lifting his season tally to eight, one behind Besart Berisha and Bruno Fornaroli.

The 4-1 win leaves Victory seven points behind Sydney FC with a game in hand.

The game, played in front of 20,491 at AAMI Park, was the first of seven in 30 days for the Victory.

James Donachie also celebrated his first Victory goal in his team's near-flawless performance, with Mariners sub Trent Buhagiar's late consolation the only blemish in 38C heat.

Victory's six-game unbeaten streak has coincided with the return of Ben Khalfallah into the first XI and he's clearly enjoying his rare batch of starts after he was resigned to an impact role at the start of the season.

Coach Kevin Muscat praised the performance of his visa wingers.

"Marco gets his goals in the second half but both were causing a hell of a lot of problems in the first half,” Muscat said.

"He (Ben Khalfallah) was good when he got the ball, he was aggressive. But he doesn't get that opportunity if Carl (Valeri) is not cleaning up the mess and Leigh (Broxham) is not winning the ball behind him.

"I've got no idea (how much this team can improve), I won't put a limit on it. We'll keep identifying areas where we can be better.

"We were clinical and well worth the three points. If I can allow myself to be disappointed, that (Mariners) goal was sloppiness.”

Starting off on the left, Ben Khalfallah was integral in most Victory attacks including the 28th-minute opener, when the crowd thought Besart Berisha had broken Archie Thompson's A-League record.

Rojas released Ben Khalfallah, who could've shot but centred for Berisha who scuffed a simple tap-in, but it took a deflection off Jake McGing on its way in, leaving him stranded alongside Thompson on 90 goals.

Victory doubled their lead five minutes after the restart, with Troisi pinpointing unmarked Donachie, who rose and cleverly wrong-footed keeper Paul Izzo by directing his header to the near post.

The casual Mariners were punished as Roy O'Donovan missed a sitter then Liam Rose was pickpocketed by Troisi in the middle with catastrophic consequences.

Ben Khalfallah centred for unmarked Rojas to tap in and seal the game in the 58th minute.

The Mariners collapsed and Victory scored a fourth within a minute as Ben Khalfallah dinked a precision ball over the top to release Rojas who slipped it past onrushing Izzo.

While frustrated Mariners boss Paul Okon constantly gave instructions, counterpart Kevin Muscat then had the luxury of withdrawing Rojas and Berisha ahead of their busy schedule, throwing on Jai Ingham and Maxi Beister.

Victory's only lapse came in the 89th minute when Nick Montgomery caught the defence off guard playing a quick ball through and Buhagiar lobbed Lawrence Thomas.


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