Mariners succumb as Phoenix juggernaut rolls on

A goal either side of half-time has consigned the Central Coast Mariners to their first loss of the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 campaign, as the Wellington Phoenix extended its unbeaten record at Westpac Stadium to 21 matches, with a 2-nil victory this afternoon.

A goal either side of half-time has consigned the Central Coast Mariners to their first loss of the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 campaign, as the Wellington Phoenix extended its unbeaten record at Westpac Stadium to 21 matches, with a 2-nil victory this afternoon.

Leo Bertos tapped home the opener before Paul Ifill produced what may go down as one of the best finishes of the season, to continue a dominance of in excess of two seasons over the Mariners.

"Wellington are a very good side and they don-t have a record at home like they-ve got for no reason, 21 unbeaten and you expect them to be one of the top teams throughout the season.

"Overall I thought in the first half, except for the one lapse of concentration when they did score I thought we did well, and in the second half they caught us on the break, so overall there were just two incidents that won them the game," said Mariners Head Coach Graham Arnold.

Despite the forecast predicting otherwise, the torrential rain which dumped on the Kiwi capital for last week-s clash between the Phoenix and Gold Coast United made way for bright sunshine, and Mariners Coach Graham Arnold made just one change from the side which drew 1-all with Adelaide United last Sunday, with Rostyn Griffiths forcing his way into the midfield after two impressive performances off the bench, with Adam Kwasnik the man to make way.

Matt Simon moved forward to spearhead the Yellow and Navy-s attach with Brad Porter and Oliver Bozanic providing support down the flanks, allowing John Hutchinson, Michael McGlinchey and Griffiths to patrol the midfield.

It was a former Mariner however who enjoyed the first chance of the match, as Dylan Macallister won his new club a corner, but Jess Vanstrattan was equal to the task.

Just ten minutes in it was 1-nil however, as Manny Muscat picked up a loose ball deep inside the Mariners half and neatly chipped Rostyn Griffiths to begin a successful one-two move with Chris Greenacre, before carrying into the six yard box and sliding it across for Leo Bertos, who scuffed home one of the easiest goals he-ll ever score from three yards.

The visitors first opportunity arrived on 18 minutes, as Griffiths sent Brad Porter on his way down the right flank, and a lovely delivery into the area was headed just wide by Matt Simon.

John Hutchinson fired just over the bar on the half hour after Bozanic shook off Muscat to deliver a ball in which was only half cleared, and while the Mariners were enjoying extensive periods of dominance they were finding it tough to square the ledger.

Ben Sigmund had to produce what could have been a goal-saving last-ditch challenge to dispossess Josh Rose on the edge of the area after the left-back went on a mazy run, while the hosts would enjoy the last two chances of the half.

First Tim Brown headed a Tony Lochhead cross over the bar, while Macallister ghosted in at the back post in the dying stages, but couldn-t connect with a ball in from Paul Ifill on the right.

The Yellow and Navy made a positive start to the second half too, as first McGlinchey got a ball into the mixer, before Pedj Bojic shot wide from 25 yards.

Simon elected to take a free kick quickly on 53 minutes and laid off for McGlinchey, but the Kiwi international-s long range effort was off target, while Bozanic went on a promising run soon after but again watched his effort clear of the far post.

The Central Coast was left to rue those misses on 61 minutes, after Tim Brown fed Paul Ifill who beat the offside trap to take it to the left edge and curl a sublime effort with the outside of his boot inside the far post, although there were suggestions the hosts may have fouled Pedj Bojic to win the ball in the first instance.

Ifill could have turned provider on 74 minutes as he delivered a ball in from the right, but neither Macallister nor Greenacre could latch on as it fizzed across the face of goal.

Bozanic forced the first save out of either goalkeeper on 79 minutes when, after going on a great run down the left and under heavy pressure from Muscat, fired toward goal, only for Paston to parry around the post.

Ifill had three chances to put the game beyond doubt as the clock wound down but was off target on all occasions, and despite a late free kick on the edge of the areas to Bojic which was deflected for a corner, the Mariners were unable to find the back of the net, and ultimately left Wellington empty handed.

"Wellington and New Zealand are riding an emotional rollercoaster after the World Cup. You have 5 or 6 players out there that played out there that played at the World Cup and are extremely confident, and when you add in there Ifill, Dylan Macallister did well against us and Andrew Durante at the back there, plus you add in a few other players, they-ve got a very good side.

"Jess (Vanstrattan) didn-t have a save to make but it was just two crucial moments in the game.

"It-s not only the lack of finishing, it-s a lack of good service. Our crossing was poor today, there was only one time where we got as good cross in, Matty Simon got on the end of it and nearly scored, but other than that our crossing wasn-t very good. We-re not too happy but we-ll go away, it-s a long season, and we-ll start again," said Arnold.

Mariners captain Alex Wilkinson was equally disappointed with the loss.

"The goals they scored were soft. The first one not tracking runners and the second one trying to play offside, and that-s cost us. I think we had them on the back foot a lot of the time, especially in the second half, but to be fair we didn-t create too many clear-cut chances either.

"As Arnie said it-s a tough place to come and we were confident we could get a result today but a couple of soft goals has cost us a draw and one point. We have a big game against Sydney next week and we-ll start planning for that now," said Wilkinson.

The Mariners are next in action when they take on Sydney FC next Saturday, 28 August at the Sydney Football Stadium. Kick-off is at 7:30pm and tickets are available online by CLICKING HERE or by phoning 132 849.

Mariners Memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 season are still available by CLICKING HERE or by phoning 1300 767 442.

Match Details

Wellington Phoenix 2 (Bertos 10-, Ifill 61-) Central Coast Mariners 0

Wellington Phoenix: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS (10. Oscar Roberto CORNEJO 58-), 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 22. Andrew DURANTE, 23. Dylan MACALLISTER (11. DANIEL 90+3-).

Subs not Used: 30. Griffin McMASTER (gk), 13. Troy HEARFIELD.

Yellow Cards Lochhead 63- Red Cards Nil

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Jess VANSTRATTAN (gk), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Brad PORTER (9. Nik MRDJA 64-), 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matt SIMON.

Subs not Used: 20. Mathew RYAN (gk), 2. Daniel McBREEN, 17. Chris DOIG.

Yellow Cards Mrdja 75' Red Cards Nil

Referee: Peter O-LEARY Crowd: 9553 at Westpac Stadium, Wellington