A Melina Ayres brace laid the foundation as Melbourne Victory took a further step towards a top four finish with a 3-0 win over Canberra United on Sunday afternoon.
Jeff Hopkins’ side made it four wins on the trot with a composed performance at Lakeside Stadium to move into the Finals Series frame, three points clear of fifth-placed Brisbane Roar.
Ayres found the back of the net for the first time this season with a first-half double for the hosts, before Victory skipper Natasha Dowie sealed the win in the final quarter hour.
The result marks a second straight clean sheet for the Victory, while continuing a horror run for United, who have now failed to score in their past five matches and are without a competition point since Christmas.
A positive start from both teams produced early chances at both ends as Annalie Longo sent her third minute free-kick high of the target for the Victory before Simone Charley also fired over the bar for United.
But an arm wrestle soon ensued as the two teams' close pre-match proximity on the Westfield W-League table became evident with the contest largely fought in the central third.
It took until the 22nd minute for the Victory to threaten the goal again when Rosie Sutton’s downward header at the back post to Darian Jenkins’ cross bounced wide.
The hosts continued to assert themselves and found the breakthrough as the clock ticked past the half hour when Ayres arrived at the back post to tuck away another sharp delivery from Jenkins.
With their tails up, the Victory sought to press their advantage and didn’t have to wait long to further their lead – with Ayres again finding the back of the net in the 38th minute.
A looping cross from Angela Beard was neatly controlled by Dowie, who then laid the ball off for Ayres to drive home with a well-placed finish inside the box.
The hosts’ spurned the chance to wrap it up before the break when Dowie pushed a shot beyond the post in the 42nd minute, before the former English international also sent the ball onto the roof of the net from a corner a minute later.
At the other end, Brazilian attacker Camila fashioned the best chance of the half for United with a stinging shot over the bar in first-half injury time.
In the second half, the contest opened up further early as Amy Jackson drew a save from United shot stopper Sham Kamis in the 47th minute before Elise Thorsnes called on Casey Dumont in the Victory goal shortly after with a long range drive.
The tit-for-tat continued as both side’s American imports went in search of goals – Jenkins heading over the cross bar for Victory before Charley fizzed a shot over the cross bar for Canberra – before Dowie’s wide poked effort on 57th minutes drew an immediate reply when Aoife Colvill drew a rushed save from Dumont.
Another chance presented for Dowie as the hour approached but the Victory captain uncharacteristically failed to capitalise after doing well to shake her marker by sending her one-on-one finish against Khamis wide.
The chances continued to pile up mid-way through the second half as Dowie sent a pair of headers either side of the target, before a firm strike from Sutton in the 71st minute stung the palms of Khamis.
Canberra were also far from toothless as Kaleigh Kurtz and Camila both drew solid saves from Dumont.
However, Dowie would not be denied for her endeavour and got her reward in the 77th minute to wrap up the three points for the Victory - strongly nodding in at the back post despite a raft of Canberra defenders on the back of a well-placed cross from Amy Jackson.
The Victory skipper continued to push as she headed wide again in the 79th minute, while Jenkins also threatened with a shot over the bar from distance in the 82nd minute.
Meanwhile, Canberra were frustrated until the end with Olivia Price sending a shot over the crossbar before Camila saw a shot deflect high in the closing stages.
Further chances presented in injury time for the hosts, however, Jenkins shot wide and Dowie saw a shot tipped onto the bar by Khamis, sparing her side being on the end of a fourth-straight 4-0 scoreline.
Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City
Thursday, 13 February 2020
Kick-off: 7:30pm AEDT
Canberra United v Adelaide United
Sunday, 6 February 2020
Kick-off: 4pm AEDT