Struggling Melbourne Victory have relieved some pressure with a morale-boosting 5-0 win over Bali United to advance to the final playoff round in the AFC Champions League.
The Indonesian champions were overrun in the second half at Melbourne's AAMI Park on Tuesday with the result putting Victory on course for a tough away meeting against Japanese heavyweights Kashima Antlers in seven days.
First-half goals from Migjen Basha and Joshua Hope were followed by further strikes from Robbie Kruse, Ola Toivonen and a late Elvis Kamsoba effort as the Victory collected their largest win of a testing campaign.
It is a first victory for interim coach Carlos Salvachua who was appointed following the sacking of Marco Kurz last week, and just a third win since the end of November for the Victory.
The home side looked threatening from the opening whistle and collected an early reward as Basha completed a sparkling team move on 14 minutes with an emphatic finish.
Livewire winger Kamsoba hit the post with a header and saw his follow up pushed onto the same post as the Victory constantly found space on attack.
But the Victory far from had it all their own way, with the visitors carving out four strong chances in a ten-minute period.
Notably lively attacker Melvin Platje failed to convert a sharp chance from close range.
The visitors' profligacy proved costly as Hope doubled the lead just before halftime after Kruse teed up the opportunity with a strong run and ball across the face of goal.
The hosts failed to collect a win in their six Champions League matches last year, but any thoughts of a repeat were ended when Kruse easily turned home the third goal thanks to a superb ball from teenage fullback Anthony Lesiotis.
The Victory continued to gain a stronger grip on the contest and there was more good news with inspirational captain Toivonen playing the last 25 minutes after missing the past three matches through injury.
Toivonen needed just 15 minutes to get on the scoresheet with the giant Swede expertly firing home a pinpoint volley.
The win means the Victory face four matches in a 12-day period, including a testing midweek trip to Japan.
The Asian Champions League group stage will commence in mid-February with A-League champions Sydney FC and minor premiers Perth Glory already assured of their participation.
Australian Associated Press