The Central Coast Mariners have suffered their first competitive defeat this season in their A-League Round Two match against Wellington Phoenix, losing 2-1 in Wollongong.
Played at the Wollongong Showground throughout feisty coastal winds on Saturday afternoon, November 27, chances were hard fought as both teams faced off against strong defensive units.
Head Coach, Nick Montgomery renamed ten of the eleven starters from last weekend’s win against the Jets, replacing the injured Béni N’Kololo up front for first team scholar and debutant, Damien Tsekenis.
In front of goal, the young scholar connected well in passing play with fellow front man, Marco Ureñaand showing a willingness to advance on the defence with the ball.
Yet the first half finished goalless despite promising attempts from both teams: Ureña and Oliver Bozanic came closest for the Mariners with powerful shots from outside the box, whilst Jaushua Sotirio maintained the Phoenix threat with multiple near misses of his own.
The deadlock was broken early in the second half by Gary Hooper for Wellington who was the first to reach the loose ball in the penalty box after Kye Rowles’ corner clearance inadvertently hit Ureña and rebounded back on goal.
Both Mariners players were quick to make up for this blunder with an equaliser only four minutes later, utilising an effective high press in defence to force an inexcusable mistake from Phoenix defender, Joshua Laws.
A long ball forward from Rowles was hotly sought by Ureña who cut out the reckless back pass from Laws and clinically passed the ball around goalkeeper, Oliver Sail.
This opening season goal brought shooting confidence for the Costa Rican striker, prompting him to take further chances and come close to a second score.
However, it was Sotirio who next tallied his season’s first in the 63rd minute, profiting from a mean deflection against Jacob Farrell’s leg to turn the ball into the far bottom corner of the net.
The entrance of Matheus Moresche and Woy Woy’s Matt Match for Tsekenis and Cy Goddard brought more energy to the attack and later, Harrison Steele from Terrigal was given his second run on in as many games.
In the end, it was not enough to undo Wellington’s lead, although the sharp goalkeeping of Mark Birighitti prevented a third conceded goal after Rowles gave away a penalty in the game’s final minutes.
The Mariners have now dropped down to fifth place with Wellington in third, Melbourne Victory are in the lead as the only team to have won two out of two matches.
A quick turnaround is required by the boys in yellow ahead of their mid-week FFA Cup Round of 16 clash against the Wollongong Wolves, followed by the A-League Match Week Three contest against Macarthur FC.
The FFA Cup will again be played at the Wollongong Showground on Wednesday, December 1; the Macarthur match at Panthers Stadium on Sunday, December 5.