A delightful Gui Finkler brace has put Melbourne Victory back on top of the A-League.
On the evidence of their 2-1 win over Central Coast, Victory look like long-term occupants of the position.
Victory dismantled the Mariners with ease on Thursday night at AAMI Park despite missing marquee striker Besart Berisha.
Soreness was cited for the Albanian’s surprise omission but it mattered not for Victory, with Finkler stepping up ably in his absence.
A late consolation to Matt Sim gave the scoreline a flattering look but Central Coast was never in the contest.
The yellow-clad Mariners resembled butter as the A-League champions cut through their defence with ease.
Victory’s clinical opener came after a quarter of an hour.
Oliver Bozanic’s delightful backheel released Finkler, who burst through the centre-backs to roll his shot past Paul Izzo.
Three minutes later Finkler netted a trademark free kick for his second.
The Brazilian unleashed his set piece, earned after Daniel Georgievski was brought down on the edge of the box, into a conspicuously large gap at Izzo’s near post.
Finkler’s double repeated his effort from March this year, when he scored twice to defeat the Mariners on the way to their drought-breaking championship.
On Thursday night, his goals led Victory to their sixth-straight win over Central Coast, worsening the Mariners’ rotten start to the season.
Sim’s 89th minute header continued the Mariners’ record of scoring in every match but Tony Walmsley’s side are slumped at the wrong end of the table.
Without Berisha, Kevin Muscat handed teenage talent George Howard his full debut, but the striker was left in the wake of Victory’s other attacking talent.
Kosta Barbarouses was busy and Oliver Bozanic gave Victory their structure but it was Finkler who shined.
In front of 16,669 at AAMI Park, Victory ensured there was no chance of an injury-time equaliser.
Kevin Muscat’s side edge out Brisbane Roar to sit on top of the table on goal difference, with the Roar to play Melbourne City on Friday night.