The Mariners fell to their first home defeat of the season on Saturday, going down 3-1 to Adelaide United after taking an early lead through Milan Ðurić at Central Coast Stadium.
Alen Stajcic made two changes to the side who faced Melbourne City in Round 4 with Jordan Murray coming in for Danny De Silva and Ruon Tongyik making his first start of the season in place of Kyle Rowes.
The game burst into life early on when Sam Silvera latched on onto a ball headed down on the edge of Adelaide’s area, and the winger took a deft touch to burst past the first challenge before being fouled by defender Michael Marrone and awarded a penalty.
It was Ðurić who stepped up and calmly dispatched his effort high into the net to give the Mariners an early advantage, his third goal of the season and becoming the first Mariner to score in three of the first five games since Matt Simon in 2008/09.
Adelaide drew level after 26 minutes when Michael Maria darted inside and fed Ben Halloran on the edge of the area and the winger exchanged passes with Riley McGree before firing low inside Mark Birighitti’s near post.
The Mariners almost regained the advantage when a short corner was worked to Tommy Oar and his cross to the back post was won in the air by Murray, only for his goal bound header to be cleared off the line by Michael Jakobsen.
Moments later the hosts were made to pay for their missed chance and fell behind to an impressive strike by Nikola Mileusnic.
A cut back by Maria found Mileusnic 12 yards out and he adjusted his body to side foot a volley past Birighitti into the top corner and put his side ahead.
The momentum swing further shortly after when Kristian Opseth got on the end of Halloran’s low cross to fire home after the latter was released by James Troisi’s searching clearance from the backline.
Oar was denied by Paul Izzo after the restart, seeing a speculative effort palmed over the bar from the corner of the box and the deficit remained two goals at the break.
Stajcic made one change at the half with young defender Lewis Miller replacing Dylan Fox in the backline, and the second half began quietly right up until the Reds were awarded a penalty as McGree went down under contact just before the hour mark.
But Birighitti was up to the task, staying low and saving the spot kick from Opseth with his legs to keep the score at 3-1 as the game entered the final 30 minutes.
Giancarlo Gallifuoco had a header saved by Izzo not long after as he got on the end of Silvera’s cross, and Matt Simon also had an effort saved by the visiting goalkeeper after coming on as the Mariners pushed to get back into the game.
That was how it finished though with Adelaide two-goal victors, and the Mariners are back home again next weekend as league newcomers Western United visit Central Coast Stadium.