Central Coast Mariners have claimed their second Hyundai A-League Premier’s Plate courtesy of a 2-1 win over Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium, New Zealand on Sunday.
Central Coast Mariners have claimed their second Hyundai A-League Premier-s Plate courtesy of a 2-1 win over Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium, New Zealand on Sunday.
On loan Heart of Midlothian hitman John Sutton-s first goal in a Mariners kit, combined with Bernie Ibini-s seventh strike of the season ensured Central Coast gave Brisbane Roar no chance of catching them in the race for first place when they meet Gold Coast United later in the afternoon.
While an 80th minute goal from Leo Bertos raised anxiety levels in the ‘Cake Tin- for the final ten minutes of play, Graham Arnold-s men showed their maturity and class to keep their cool and frustrate the Phoenix who kept attacking to referee Strebre Delovski-s final whistle.
The match was an open affair from start to finish however the hallmark of the first 45 - until Sutton-s 45th minute header - was both teams- inability to fire past either goalkeeper. On several occasions, custodians Mathew Ryan and Mark Paston stood tall to make telling interventions and keep their opponents at bay.
For the Mariners, there was no better example of this than in the 26th minute when desperate defending thwarted three Phoenix efforts. Ryan reacted sharply to save from Paul Ifill-s strong effort on the angle, before Patrick Zwaanswijk blocked a shot from close range. With the ball ricocheting out of the box, Ryan bounced back to his feet to catch Chris Greenacre-s shot from outside the area.
Six minutes later Paston proved his worth with an important stop. Having whizzed past Ben Sigmund with his pace, Ibini went one-on-one with the internationally experienced ‘keeper, however had his shot well saved.
Just two minutes later it was Ryan again who was called into action. With Greenacre bursting through, the Mariners number one stood tall to again disappoint the healthy and vociferous Phoenix gallery.
Just before the break the Mariners took the lead. Breaking down the right side, Ibini slid a well-weighted pass to midfielder Oliver Bozanic. Bozanic neatly lifted the ball onto the head of Sutton, with the English striker perfectly nodding the ball over Paston and into the back of the net.
Both teams returned from the interval showing impetus and an intent to attack and it was the home team who created the first opportunity of the second stanza. Vince Lia whizzed a cross across the face of goal which only needed a touch from the onrushing Greenacre to level proceedings. Unfortunately for Phoenix, Lia-s cross evaded everyone.
Soon after the Mariners doubled their advantage. Bursting through midfield, the impressive Michael McGlinchey provided a telling, accurate pass to Ibini. Making no mistake from close range, Ibini poked the ball past Paston much to the delight of Mariners fans in the Stadium and gathered around television screens worldwide.
Playing their normal game founded on defence and possession, the Mariners found themselves in the ascendency for much of the remainder of the second stanza. Indeed, the yellow and navy nearly extended their lead in the 59th minute when Sutton was denied by a spectacular save by Paston after a corner from Bozanic.
And, nerves could of began to jangle in the 80th minute when Leo Bertos- free-kick from range flew into the back of the net to bring the Phoenix within one.
But, sticking to their game plan and showing the character and determination for which they are renowned, the Mariners dug deep to rebuff a number of late Wellington attacking raids.
Central Coast Mariners Head Coach, Graham Arnold, was understandably delighted with the result post-match, and his first piece of silverware with the club.
“I am so delighted, and proud of the players and what they-ve achieved,” he said.
“I think a lot of people would have discarded us as any chance to win the Premiership this season after last year, but the character to bounce back has made this success all the more worthwhile.”
“The team has been through a lot - losing Matty Simon and Rostyn Griffiths has not made it easy. But the culture and character within the group is so strong.”
“I-m also so thankful to my staff. Phil Moss, John Crawley, Andrew Clark and the entire medical and support staff. That we-ve still got 22 fit players with Champions League as well as A-League is amazing.”
“I want the boys to enjoy tonight and tomorrow because they thoroughly deserve some down time and to celebrate a brilliant performance.”
“But Wednesday we start again. The Finals Series is a new competition. Brisbane home and away is a great test, a great rivalry and we-re looking forward to two bumper games to try and make the Grand Final again.”
“I-m so proud.”
Central Coast returns home on Monday to begin preparations for Saturday-s Hyundai A-League Major Semi-Final first leg against Brisbane Roar. That clash is followed by an AFC Champions League Group G meeting with Korea-s Seongnam Ilwha Chunma before the yellow and navy meet Roar at Bluetongue Stadium on Easter Sunday to decide which team advances directly to this season-s Hyundai A-League Grand Final.
The Premiership success also ensures the Mariners will compete in the 2013 AFC Champions League having earned direct qualification into Asia's premier club competition.
Match Details Wellington Phoenix 1 (Bertos 80-) Central Coast Mariners 1 (Sutton 44-, Ibini 51-)
Wellington Phoenix: 1. Mark PASTON (Gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD (24. Alex SMITH 73-), 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE (14. Mirjan PAVLOVIC 54-), 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 21. Dani SANCHEZ (12. Nick WARD 60-), 22. Andrew DURANTE
Subs not Used: 20. Tony WARNER (Gk)
Yellow Cards: Brown
Red Cards: None
Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (Gk), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 9. Bernie IBINI (12. Troy HEARFIELD 82-), 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael MCGLINCHEY, 17. Tomas ROGIC (22. Mustafa AMINI 62-), 18. Alex WILKINSON (C), 19. John SUTTON (23. Adam KWASNIK 72-)
Subs not Used: 20. Justin PASFIELD (Gk)
Yellow Cards: None
Red Cards: None
Referee: Strebre DELOVSKI