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Jamie Maclaren fires as Melbourne City charges towards A-League Men’s premiership

Jamie Maclaren has led Melbourne City to an emphatic 4-1 A-League Men win over 10-man Wellington. <i>Photo: AAP</i>

Jamie Maclaren has led Melbourne City to an emphatic 4-1 A-League Men win over 10-man Wellington. Photo: AAP

Coach Rado Vidosic has declared a newly fit and firing Jamie Maclaren back to his best as Melbourne City’s team of “serial winners” close on a third straight A-League Men premiership.

Maclaren’s brace and Marco Tilio’s double on a patchy AAMI Park surface delivered the league leaders a 4-1 win over a 10-man Wellington and a seven-point buffer over Adelaide.

City need just three points from their remaining three games to claim the premiers plate while fifth-placed Wellington’s hopes of a home final took a hit.

“Well, I can’t wait for those three points to be honest,” Vidosic said.

“It’s been a long season. We’ve been top of the league – I’m not sure from what round – so I think we fully deserve to be where we are.

“We’ve played some really amazing football throughout the year, we dealt with the setbacks maybe better than some other teams.

“These players, they are serial winners and it’s really easy to be behind the wheel of this team.”

Goalless in five matches as he struggled with a toe injury, Maclaren danced through the Wellington defence in the 34th minute before drilling a strike into the bottom corner, then turned home an Andrew Nabbout cross in the 52nd.

“Yesterday was the first time in many, many, many weeks that he did a shooting session after training,” Vidosic said.

“He was obviously in a lot of pain with his broken toe, then he had a little bit of a problem with his groin. So he was not himself, as sharp, as predatorial as he was in the past.

“But yesterday was the first time that he felt really really well and you can see that today.

“He was outstanding, his movement was excellent, his contribution in build-up was very, very good – but finishing was class.”

Maclaren is just two behind all-time leading ALM goalscorer Besart Berisha (142 goals).

He has 20 goals for the season, four clear of second-placed Jason Cummings (Central Coast) as he eyes a fourth consecutive golden boot and fifth overall.

“He knows what he needs to do and he does it probably better than anyone else in the history of this competition,” Vidosic said.

“Especially now that he’s fully fit, it’s going to be hard to stop him.”

Wellington should have scored in the fourth minute when Oskar Zawada dragged a shot wide while City goalkeeper Tom Glover denied Alex Rufer and Zawada before Maclaren opened the scoring.

Wellington unsuccessfully appealed for a penalty in first-half injury time when Zawada was brought down by Curtis Good.

“From the distance that I saw it from, I thought it was (a penalty),” Wellington coach Ufuk Talay said.

“Obviously the referee didn’t and VAR didn’t.”

Phoenix equalised via Steven Ugarkovic’s deflected shot in the 49th minute.

But Nabbout teed up Maclaren in the 52nd minute then assisted Tilio, who scored a wonderful chipped goal, nine minutes later.

Wellington had Joshua Laws sent off in the 65th minute for a high boot on Nabbout and Tilio buried his second goal in the 83rd.

“They were clinical, we weren’t and this is the outcome,” Talay said.

-AAP

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