A Daniel McBreen goal has given Central Coast Mariners their third straight victory of the A-League season.
Central Coast Mariners stretched their winning run to three games with a 1-0 victory over Wellington Phoenix on Sunday afternoon.
Daniel McBreen’s cool finish in the 69th minute proved to be enough for the visitors to take all three points, which lifted them to top of the Hyundai A-League standings above Adelaide United and Newcastle Jets.
It was also the Mariners’ third win in as many matches at Westpac Stadium, a venue that is usually a fortress for the Phoenix but one where they continue to struggle against Graham Arnold’s side.
While Wellington’s performance was an improvement on last Monday’s poor loss to the Victory they still had nothing to show for their efforts and have slipped to ninth with just one win from their opening six matches.
Herbert would have been happier with his team’s start to the match on Sunday, in a first half that produced entertaining football but no goals.
The Phoenix showed far more urgency and desire than in the poor loss to the Melbourne Victory and didn’t allow the Mariners to dictate matters.
Alex Smith and Manny Muscat were strong in midfield and largely kept exciting youngster Tom Rogic in check.
Both teams were content to play the ball around in an effort to find gaps in defence but chances were few and far between after an early effort by Rogic, which was comfortably gathered by Phoenix keeper Mark Paston.
When the Mariners did opt for the more direct route it almost paid off in the 29th minute when Patrick Zwaanswijk fired a long cross-field ball to Mile Sterjovski.
The striker did the hard work to get round Phoenix left-back Tony Lochhead but then fired his shot beyond the far post.
A minute later and Muscat blasted a speculative effort wide for the Phoenix.
The home side’s best chance of the first half came just before the break when Smith pounced on a stray Michael McGlinchey pass, made a strong run towards the box before laying the ball off nicely to Stein Huysegems.
But the Belgian striker, normally a composed presence in front of goal, fired high and wide under no pressure.
The Mariners began to take control of the game in the 15 minutes immediately after half-time as Rogic started to exert more of an influence.
But the teenager, who was called into the Socceroos squad for Wednesday’s friendly international against South Korea, couldn’t convert two good chances to break the deadlock, while McBreen blasted the rebound from the teenager’s second attempt over the crossbar.
Rogic first effort in the 50th minute was the easier of the two but he fired it over the crossbar after a nice lay-off by Joshua Rose.
The second shot forced Paston into a smart one-handed save nine minutes later as Ben Sigmund appeared to pull the attacking midfielder back.
It resulted in a yellow card for Sigmund and was a very similar scenario to the one that earned the Phoenix defender a red card against Adelaide two weeks ago, the only difference being Rogic stayed on his feet.
The breakthrough finally came for the visitors with just over 20 minutes to go and this time Rogic turned provider.
The 19-year-old got round Muscat and Bertos down the left flank then put McBreen clear, the striker coolly fired over an onrushing Paston.
It was all the Mariners needed as the Phoenix pressed hard for an equaliser but to no avail.
The midfield maestro didn’t shirk the task despite an impending Qantas Socceroos debut, always a threat he may have spurned a gilt-edged chance on goal but his vision set McBreen up for the match-winner.
Wellington Phoenix 0
Central Coast Mariners 1 (McBreen 69)
Crowd: 6,568 @ Westpac Stadium