A first-half Tim Cahill header and three second-half goals, one to substitute Nick Fitzgerald and two to captain Bruno Fornaroli, eased Melbourne City to a comfortable 4-0 win over Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
The victory – only their second back-to-back win of the season – moves City into a clear third spot on the A-League ladder, three points ahead of Brisbane Roar, who travel to Adelaide on Sunday afternoon.
Michael Valkanis team is keen to try and shore up third place as it will give them a first home final against the team that eventually finishes sixth.
Newcastle, desperate for points to stay in the finals race themselves, began the game in lively enough fashion and had the first two chances of the game before City were able to settle into a rhythm.
Wayne Brown, once of Fulham and Bristol Rovers but now a key player for the Hunter Valley side, dispossessed Neil Kilkenny in the third minute and, spotting Thomas Sorensen off his line, tried his luck with an audacious long range lob, which the Danish goalkeeper managed to get back in time to collect.
There was a far better opportunity a couple of minutes later when a long ball down the flank fell to Jets winger Andrew Nabbout, who bore down on goal.
The ex-Melbourne Victory forward has been something of a revelation with Newcastle and has scored eight times this season, but with just Sorensen to beat and Osama Malik thundering in for a late challenge, Nabbout fired wide.
That was really as good as it got for the visitors as City regained their composure and began to stamp their authority on the game.
City captain Fornaroli is not just a goalscorer, but he is also particularly adept at drawing free kicks for fouls in dangerous areas.
When Andrew Hoole was penalised for an illegal challenge on him early in the game the statistic flashed up on screen to hammer the point home, revealing that Fornaroli had been fouled 86 times so far this campaign with, ironically, Hoole the next most sinned against, with 63 fouls against him.
Fornaroli did not punish Newcastle then, but he did shortly after when he was involved, along with Nicolas Colazo, in the move to set up Cahill’s opening goal.
The ball was played back to Josh Rose, the left-back’s cross being met perfectly by the veteran Socceroo, who beat defender John Koutroumbis and headed wide of Jack Duncan to put the hosts in front.
City then enjoyed a period of domination where they retained possession, recycled the ball well and huffed and puffed but could not find a way to break down the visitors a second time.
Colazo hit the side netting after being set up by Ivan Franjic, then Newcastle captain Nigel Boogarde, one of the league’s serial offenders, picked up a card for tangling with, yes, you guessed it, City’s Uruguayan skipper, who stepped up to direct the resultant free kick just wide.
Fornaroli made space for himself just after the restart but his shot was easily held by Duncan. Ben Kantarovski’s loose clearance was then picked up by Kilkenny, who found Colazo only for Duncan to save his shot.
At the other end Morten Nordstrand, on as a replacement for Aleksandr Kokko, was played through but perhaps lacking game time his touch let him down.
Cahill made way for Nick Fitzgerald just before the our mark and the substitute almost made a speedy impact, jinking in space on the right before firing in a shot, which Duncan saved.
Fitzgerald’s next intervention was even more telling. He drove into the Jets penalty area before back heeling the ball to Anthony Caceres on the edge of the box. Fitzgerald kept running and took Caceres’ delightful chip over the defence first time to lob over Duncan and into the back of the net for City’s second goal.
Shortly afterwards Fornaroli put the game to bed from the penalty spot after another substitute, Bruce Kamau, had been brought down by Daniel Mullen.
He then grabbed a second when the Jets failed to clear Nick Fitzgerald’s cross, lashing home a loose ball from close range.
City now face two tough road trips, away to Western Sydney and Sydney in the next fortnight, but confidence will be high after this win.