Melbourne City remain firmly in the hunt for the Liberty A-League premiership after accounting for Wellington Phoenix 4-0 at AAMI Park.
Kaitlyn Torpey’s world-class strike handed City the lead in the 29th minute, while Hannah Wilkinson and Winonah Heatley added two more goals before half-time, with skipper Emma Checker’s second-half goal wrapping up three points on Sunday.
City’s third win on the bounce consolidated second place, keeping them just four points short of leaders Sydney FC, with a game in hand.
The scoreline belied a competitive showing from winless Wellington and a difficult first half for City, who were playing their first game since December 26 after COVID-19 cases saw their January 2 clash with Newcastle postponed.
“We only got our team back on Wednesday, so it was a shorter preparation and that was just something that stood out for me,” City head coach Rado Vidosic said.
“We just didn’t do our principles, our passing was not there, the effort was not there and we tried to address that.
“The second half was much much better but (we got) three points against a very, very good Wellington team, they pressed us really hard, they asked a lot of questions.
“It was probably the most challenging game because they were so up for the fight, which was really good to see and it was a good challenge for our girls.”
City snatched the lead when Holly McNamara whipped in a cross and Kate Taylor headed the ball clear, but only as far as Torpey.
The defender got her foot over the ball beautifully and lashed a brilliant, skidding half-volley into the bottom corner.
City’s second goal came when goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri hoofed the ball downfield, and Mackenzie Barry attempted to head the ball back to Lily Alfeld but didn’t get enough power on it.
New Zealand international Wilkinson pounced, coolly chipping the Phoenix goalkeeper for her eighth goal of the season.
Three minutes into additional time, Chelsea Blissett floated in a corner and, after a scramble, the ball fell to Heatley at the back post, who toe-poked home.
“We had a good first half but then obviously we made that mistake and conceded a soft second goal,” coach Gemma Lewis said.
“Then conceding just before we go in to halftime from a corner. Those are the things in this league that kind of stamp your fate a little bit.
“… 3-0 down at half-time is so hard to come back from so we just have to really work on stopping those soft goals, because that changed the game to be honest.”
Wellington held out in the second half until Checker smashed home an instinctive left-footed effort at a corner in the 78th minute.
City will now be without Heatley and McNamara for at least their next game against Adelaide, with the duo heading to Dubai for a Matildas training camp to push their case for selection in the final Asian Cup squad.