Strikers sink Glory in Mariners tough win

Two powerful finishes from strikers Matt Simon and Bernie Ibini were enough for the Central Coast Mariners to overcome a resolute Perth Glory 2-1 in their Hyundai A-League Week 4 clash at Bluetongue Stadium this evening.

Two powerful finishes from strikers Matt Simon and Bernie Ibini were enough for the Central Coast Mariners to overcome a resolute Perth Glory 2-1 in their Hyundai A-League Week 4 clash at Bluetongue Stadium this evening. In sweltering conditions the home side clawed their way from behind to record their first victory this campaign.

Going into the match with the knowledge that a much-improved performance was needed to erase the frustration of a last-up loss to bitter rivals Newcastle Jets, Graham Arnold rang in the changes. Bernie Ibini was handed his first start for the season, Daniel McBreen shifted to the point of the diamond while both Mustafa Amini and Alex Wilkinson came through the week-s training sessions unscathed to take their place in the match day squad for the first time this term.

The match started brightly enough for the home side with an early touch from Ibini putting Matt Simon through a gap in the Perth defence. Unfortunately for the hosts, Simon had erred slightly in his timing and was a fraction offside as the ball was played. It takes time for a new partnership to form between strikers, but it was a positive start.

Just as it seemed that the Mariners would begin to attack freely, the visitors stole momentum with an early opening goal. Scott Neville delivered a flighted cross and the Mariners- defenders committed the cardinal sin of not tracking a drifting runner. Travis Dodd made them pay with interest as he casually turned a glancing header past a stranded Mathew Ryan to open his account for his new club in the sixth minute.

Stunned and frustrated by conceding an early goal the Mariners tried everything within their power to try and get back into the match. The visitors have never won at Bluetongue Stadium and were clearly eager to end that streak. Rather than dropping players behind the ball after scoring an early goal on the road, the Glory took the game to the Yellow and Navy, and really didn-t give them a chance to get any sort of rhythm going. Perth had a chance to double their lead in the 15th minute when Billy Mehmet-s strike cannoned off the post. It was a warning to the home side that the visitors from the West Australian capital were here to play and continue their positive start to the season. Shane Smeltz could have inflicted more pain on the Mariners and capitalised on what was a lopsided possession count but Ryan was more than up to the task as he palmed the stinging shot away.

Ryan-s efforts and Ibini-s ability to bring the crowd to their feet every time he touched the ball finally seemed to awaken the hosts from their slumber. Buoyed by the enthusiasm of their teenage teammates it was the efforts of three senior players who contributed to the equaliser. McBreen, playing in midfield, showed his true class with some delightful touches and energetic defence in the torrid opening quarter of the match, but it was his pass to Pedj Bojic that created the team-s first goal.

As the Mariners slowly clawed their way back into the contest Bojic and Rose began to push forward on the type of runs that made them two of the more dynamic wingbacks in the competition. In the 27th minute Bojic timed his cross to Simon with precision, and the 2010/11 Mariners- Golden Boot Winner controlled the ball perfectly with his left foot, teeing the ball up for his right foot to slot the ball home. It was sublime play from the marksman, and the relief of opening his account for the campaign was clearly evident.

Now back on level terms, the Mariners were beginning to play the free-flowing style of football that the Bluetongue faithful know they are capable of. Shortly after the half hour mark Oliver Bozanic decided to test current Glory custodian, and former Mariners- shot-stopper Danny Vukovic with a long range effort. The Qantas U23-s Australian captain and Avoca Beach junior copped a hard knock to his ankle for his troubles as Glory defender Seb Van Den Brink closed in.

With the shadows of halftime looming over Bluetongue there was a sense that something was about to happen. After dominating the match for the majority of the half, the visitors were getting frustrated that they had let the Mariners back into the match. In stoppage time they allowed Rostyn Griffiths to make a long break through the heart of their defence. For a split second it had seemed that the midfielder had delayed his pass to Simon for too long. Using his striker-s instinct Simon cut-back inside and unleashed a curling shot towards Vukovic-s goal but the Perth shot-stopper pulled off a stunning save to deny Simon his second of the match.

Vukovic may have stopped Simon from scoring but he and his defenders had not reckoned on there being a second threat there ready to pounce on any opportunity. Bernie Ibini in his first senior start had ghosted in for just such a chance and when the ball bounced towards him off the palm of Vukovic he had no hesitation. The Qantas Young Socceroos striker powered his shot into the back of the net with such velocity that the ball thundered back out. Ibini celebrated leaping high into the dusk sky, and the Mariners had taken an unlikely lead. It was a lead that as it turns out they would never relinquish.

The first half battle seemed to have taken the sting out of both side-s attack as both were content to try and control possession and territory in the second half. The Mariners were looking more composed than they have previously, and their midfield began to string passes together. Captain Wilkinson may have been short of a gallop, but he and the experienced Zwaanswijk calmly played the ball out from the back to begin most of the home side-s attacking raids.

There were no real clear-cut chances in the first fifteen minutes of the second half, but the Mariners did fashion several half chances from the boot of Ibini. In the first instance the youngster dragged his shot wide of the near post, before a flying Scott Neville challenge stopped him in his tracks minutes later as he looked to beat the Glory cover defence. It was an impressive starting debut from Ibini with plenty of encouraging signs for the future.

Mindful of not over exerting his young charge, Arnold substituted him shortly afterwards to a standing ovation from the Bluetongue faithful, as another member of the club-s impressive roster of youth took his place on the pitch. The famous ‘fro may have been trimmed, but Mustafa Amini showed that he still had an ability to time a pass in a 25 minute cameo.

Perth should have had an equaliser in the 73rd minute, in fact it was probably the best chance of the match. Liam Miller delivered a pass to Adam Hughes who skewed his resulting shot wide with the goal at his mercy. The home side can consider themselves fortunate that the ball didn-t go one player further wide as it is doubtful that Smeltz would have missed such a golden chance.

Keen to captalise on their good fortune the Mariners continued to push forward in search of an elusive goal to close out the match. They couldn-t manufacture a chance, but by then it didn-t matter the target was simply to get the three points.

To their credit Perth threw everything at the home side in a tough final few minutes of stoppage time. Even Danny Vukovic travelled the length of the field to get involved in one last desperate attack. For a brief moment the Mariners must have had visions of shooting a 50 metre screamer from the half-way line to end the match, but the players who had fought hard to come from behind didn-t want to the give the visitors easy ball and thought better of it.

The home side managed to hang on for a very valuable victory, and the attention now switches to a tricky away clash with a resurgent Wellington Phoenix next Friday night.

After the match, Mariners boss Graham Arnold said it was vital his players won their individual battles against the Glory.

“We had to win the battle first and foremost, so I challenged the boys before the game for seven or eight of us to win our battles, and then I thought our football ability would take over,” he said.

“When you-re scrapping for points, you-ve got to get in their face, and I think we did that. We showed that we wouldn-t be intimidated by them, and physically we won most of our battles so it was good.”

Despite the win, Arnold reiterated that his side would need to take their game to another level to compete with the competition-s heavyweights.

“We-ve still got to do better and we can do better,” he said.

Match Details Central Coast Mariners 2 (Simon 27-, Ibini 45 + 1-) Perth Glory 1 (Dodd 6-)

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (GK), 2. Daniel McBREEN, 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 9. Bernie IBINI (22. Mustafa AMINI 69-), 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 18. Alex WILKINSON (C), 19. Matt SIMON (12. Troy HEARFIELD 89-) Subs not Used: 20. Justin PASFIELD, 10. Adriano PELLEGRINO Yellow Cards: Simon 7-, McBreen 30-, Zwaanswijk 50-, McGlinchey 90 + 1- Red Cards: None

Perth Glory: 1. Danny VUKOVIC (GK), 3. Seb VAN DEN BRINK, 4. Billy MEHMET, 6. Chris COYNE, (2. Josh MITCHELL 21-) 7. Jacob BURNS (C), 8. Adam HUGHES, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Liam MILLER, 12. Scott NEVILLE, 13. Travis DODD (27. Andrezinho 65-), 17. Todd HOWARTH (14. Steve McGARRY 90 + 1-) Subs not Used: 30. Lewis ITALIANO (GK), Yellow Cards: Van Den Brink 34-, Burns 41-, Howarth 58- Red Cards: None

Referee: Ryan SHEPHEARD Crowd: 6,883 at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford