Men’s Match Preview: Wellington Phoenix vs. Central Coast Mariners

The Wellington Phoenix are targeting three points in their second round Isuzu UTE A-League match, after getting “the first game jitters out of the way”.

The Phoenix play host to the Central Coast Mariners at Sky Stadium in Wellington on Sunday afternoon, seven days after drawing 1-1 with Adelaide United in their season opener.

A number of Wellington players felt the team started nervously against Adelaide and head coach Ufuk Talay is happy to have round one “out of the way”.

“Obviously Yan (Sasse) getting sent off and playing close to 70 minutes with 10 men and getting a point out of that game was very important for us,” Talay told media before the team’s final training session on Saturday morning.

“Now the first game jitters are out of the way and it’s very important that in our home games we pick up three points.”

The Phoenix play four of their first six matches at Sky Stadium and Talay says they have to capitalise on the favourable draw to open the season.

“Now we’re back at home we need to use that advantage of playing games in Wellington and making teams travel over here.

“It’s been a couple of seasons where teams haven’t had to travel over to Wellington so that’s a big change for them as well.

“It’s important we maximise every home game.”

The Mariners’ opening round match was postponed due to extreme wet weather in Gosford, but they have convincingly won their last two meetings with the Nix – the first time they have won back-to-back matches against Wellington in a decade.

Central Coast ran out 5-0 winners in Gosford in early April, before crashing the Phoenix’s homecoming just 12 days later when they scored four unanswered goals at Sky Stadium.

“That’s in the past and we learn from the past,” Talay said.

“They’re a difficult side to play against. They work very hard on and off the ball, so we’ll prepare for what we need to do when we have the ball and when we don’t have the ball. It’s going to be a tough game regardless.

“We’re playing at home, we’re playing in front of our fans and we want to maximise the opportunity and get three points.”

Brazilian playmaker Yan Sasse will miss Sunday’s game through suspension, but left back Sam Sutton is available for selection, after recovering from the hamstring injury that kept him out of the season opener.

“He’s trained with the group for the last two weeks so he’ll come back in.

“He hasn’t missed a lot of game time. Sutts got a lot of minutes during pre-season, but we’ll make a decision about what the starting XI looks like [on Sunday].”

Ufuk Talay was also asked if he is interested in the now vacant All Whites head coaching position.

“Definitely, if there’s an interest there I’d love to sit down and have a chat,” Talay said.

“Coaching a national team is always interesting. For me being the sole club [in New Zealand] and aligning with New Zealand Football will help New Zealand Football and the club at the same time.”

He is unsure if he would be able to hold both roles, like Ricki Herbert did when he was head coach of the Phoenix and the All Whites between 2007 and 2013.

“If it does come to that stage there has to be a lot of discussion and I believe it’ll only work if during the FIFA windows there are no games within the A-League competition.”

The second round Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast Mariners  is scheduled to kick-off at Sky Stadium in Wellington at 3:00pm (1:00pm AEDT) and will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 1 & 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.

Gates open at Sky Stadium at 11:45am, with the Phoenix reserves to play Melville United in round three of the National League Championship at 12pm.

Most recent meeting: 17 April 2022 – Wellington Phoenix 0 Central Coast Mariners 4

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 18W, Mariners 18W & 7D.

Wellington Phoenix squad: 
3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 12. Lucas MAURAGIS, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 18. Ben WAINE, 19. Sam SUTTON, 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk).
Unavailable: 10. David Ball (injured), 14. Alex RUFER (injured), 31. Yan SASSE (suspended).

Central Coast Mariners squad: 2. Thomas AQUILINA, 3. Brian KALTAK, 4. Joshua NISBET, 6. Maximilien BALARD, 7. Samuel SILVERA, 9. Jason CUMMINGS, 11. Beni NKOLOLO, 13. Harrison STEELE, 15. Storm ROUX, 17. KELECHI, 18. Jacob FARRELL, 20. Daniel VUKOVIC (c) (gk), 21. Michael RUHS, 22. Cameron WINDUST (c), 24. Yaren SOZER (gk),  27. Sasha KUZEVSKI, 28. James BAYLISS, 29. Dor JOK, 90. Paul AYONGO, 98. MARCO TULIO.
10. Matheus MORESCHE (injured), 14. Garang KUOL (international duty), 23. Daniel HALL (suspended), 25. Nectarios TRIANTIS (international duty), 26. Bradley TAPP (injured)