1-0: Ibini's header keeps Mariners ahead

A 47th minute headed goal by young-gun Bernie Ibini sealed the Central Coast Mariners a vital 1-0 win over Adelaide United at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday.

A 47th minute headed goal by young-gun Bernie Ibini sealed the Central Coast Mariners a vital 1-0 win over Adelaide United at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday.

Latching on to a precise cross from right-back Pedj Bojic, Ibini nodded past Eugene Galekovic to give Graham Arnold-s team the decisive goal they needed to ensure they maintained their two-point buffer atop the Hyundai A-League ladder.

The talented marksman-s sixth goal of the season proved critical as Brisbane Roar scored a late winner from the penalty spot against Newcastle Jets in the simultaneous Hyundai A-League fixture to ensure the race for the Premiers- Plate will go down to the final day of the regular campaign.

After a hectic period of travelling, training, and matches across two continents, two weather systems and three stadiums, Graham Arnold elected to start with a fresh attacking trio including Bernie Ibini with John Sutton, with Mustafa Amini playing in behind the two strikers.

Out of contention of a finals berth Adelaide United very nearly ambushed Brisbane Roar last weekend, and were desperate to give the Mariners more of the same treatment when they took to a Bluetongue pitch doused in torrential rain.

Had Bruce Djite-s header gone an inch to the left the visitors very well could have taken an early lead.

Nevertheless, both teams found chances hard to come by in the opening half, with the Mariners- best opportunity falling to Bojic just before the break when he was found steaming in at the far post. Unfortunately, Bojic couldn-t keep his shot down and the half chance went begging.

Whatever Arnold said to his team at half time clearly worked as the Mariners came out reinvigorated and alert. And, it would take them just two minutes into the second stanza to take the lead.

With skill, Bojic found Ibini who made no mistake with his header to send the yellow and navy ahead.

From there Central Coast largely dominated proceedings, eager to ensure they did their part in the race for first place.

And while Michael McGlinchey hit the post with a sweet free kick that evaded all bar the post, and Dutch defender Patrick Zwaanswijk forced Galekovic into a super save, the Mariners couldn-t quite extend their advantage before referee Ben Williams- final whistle.

Mathew Ryan kept his nerve in the closing stages of the match to deal with some difficult crosses to ensure Adelaide didn-t restore parity.

After the match, Arnold said he didn-t fear an away trip to Wellington in the final round of the competition to secure first place, and added that he wouldn-t need to motivate his players for the momentous match.

“We-ve got a great record in Wellington, a fantastic record against them and a very good record over there since I-ve been here so we-ll go there very very confident to get what we need,” he said.

“At the start of the year our goal was to get in the top six. To replicate what they-ve done last year already and get second spot guaranteed, it-s been a phenomenal performance by the players.”

He also said that the way his players performed in the second stanza against the Reds was testament to the character of his group.

“The will to win within this group is great,” he said.

You never win anything by passing on responsibility and I felt that in the first half it was quite flat but the second half was an excellent performance. I think that was the best that we-ve played in the second half with our brains. The boys did exceptionally well in the second half.”

Before the trip to face Phoenix, the Mariners host Japanese powerhouse Nagoya Grampus at Central Coast Stadium on Wednesday 21 March. Kick-off in the yellow and navy-s second AFC Champions League Group G clash is 7:30pm.

The Mariners started their 2012 AFC Champions League assault with a 0-0 draw against Tianjin Teda in China.

Central Coast Mariners 1 (Ibini 47-) Adelaide United 0

Central Coast Mariners 1. Mathew RYAN, 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 9. Bernie IBINI (12. Troy HEARFIELD 82-), 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 12. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Michael MCGLINCHEY, 18. Alex WILKINSON (C), 19. John SUTTON (23. Adam KWASNIK 66-), 22. Mustafa AMINI (17. Tomas ROGIC 88-)

Subs not used 20. Justin PASFIELD

Yellow Cards None

Red Cards None

Adelaide United 1. Eugene GALEKOVIC, 2. Osama MALIK (15. Jacob MELLING 66-), 3. Nigel BOOGAARD, 4. Jonathan MCKAIN, 7. Zenon CARAVELLA, 10. Dario VIDOSIC, 11. Bruce DJITE (9. Sergio VAN DIJK 55-), 12. Antony GOLEC, 17. Iain RAMSAY (14. Cameron WATSON 50-), 21. Francisco USUCAR

Subs not used 20. Mark BIRIGHITTI

Yellow Cards Golec, Caravella, Galekovic, Boogaard

Red Cards None

Referee Ben WILLIAMS

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