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

The Central Coast Mariners have crashed the Wellington Phoenix’s homecoming party.

The Mariners have beaten the Phoenix 4-0 in front of a boisterous crowd of 18,184 fans, who came to Sky Stadium to witness the team’s first game in New Zealand in 322 days.

Central Coast led 1-0 at halftime courtesy of a goal against the run of play, scored two in four minutes early in the second-half to all but kill of the game and then added a fourth late in stoppage time.

It is the Phoenix’s first defeat in New Zealand since October 2019.

“This was our seventh game in 23 days and it does take a toll on the players,” Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay head coach told media post-game.

Talay said the Mariners’ first goal deflated his team.

“I thought we started off the game on the front foot.

“The first two goals we conceded they countered the counter. We should have scored and they’ve come back and scored and the second goal was pretty much similar again.

“After that we’re chasing the game…which opens up a few more holes for transition and they capitalised on it.”

Despite the score-line, the third biggest crowd of the A-League season cheered the Nix on for the full 90 minutes.

“It’s nice that they still applauded the boys for the effort and energy they have put in so far this season,” Talay said.

“We miss them dearly. It was great to come back and play a game but disappointed with the outcome.

“We’ve got another game up in Auckland and we’ve got a good long week ahead of us to prepare for that one.”

Ufuk Talay made one enforced change to the XI which started the 1-0 win over Perth Glory on Wednesday night, with Louis Fenton starting at right back in place of the injured Callan Elliot. Fit-again forward Oskar van Hattum returned on the bench.

The Phoenix almost made the dream start from the kick-off, with Jaushua Sotirio blazing over the bar inside 10 seconds.

It was a sign of things to come, with the Nix dominating the opening quarter of an hour. Unfortunately for Wellington all they had to show for their dominance was a long-range shot from Gael Sandoval which was comfortably held by Mariners ‘keeper Mark Birighitti.

The Phoenix’s best chance of the half fell to David Ball in the 25th minute, but Birighitti produced a top drawer save to deny him.

Seconds later Central Coast took the lead. Beni Nkololo found the back of the net with a first-time shot after a lightning quick Mariners counter-attack.

Oli Sail made a sharp save a handful of minutes later to ensure the Nix didn’t go 2-0 down.

The Phoenix continued to press for an equaliser, but despite getting in promising positions they weren’t able to test Birighitti again before halftime.

All Whites defender Tim Payne moved into midfield at the start of the second-half, allowing Sandoval to play higher up the park.

The Mexican almost created an equaliser in the 61st minute, but Sandoval’s cross was just out of Ball’s reach.

Moments later the Mariners had their second with Jason Cummings heading home from close-range after Matheus Moresche had rattled the crossbar with his own effort.

The Brazilian scored their third in the 65th minute. Moresche’s deflected effort wrongfooting Sail.

Substitute Matthew Hatch completed the scoring with almost the final kick of the game.

Despite the result the Phoenix remain fifth on the ladder. Central Coast are still eighth but just two points outside the top six and three points behind Wellington.

After seven matches in 23 days, the Wellington Phoenix have a full week to prepare for their next match against Western Sydney Wanderers at Eden Park.

The Phoenix will train in Wellington the next couple of days before travelling to Auckland to prepare for Sunday afternoon’s match.
Wellington Phoenix: 20. Oli SAIL (gk) (c), 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. James MCGARRY, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Gael SANDOVAL, 9. David BALL (8. Ben OLD 80th), 10. Reno PISCOPO, 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO (36. Riley BIDOIS 90+1), 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 16. Louis FENTON (18. Ben WAINE 63rd), 33. Finn SURMAN
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 3. Matthew BOZINOVSKI, 34. Jackson MANUEL, 43. Oskar VAN HATTUM

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk) (c), 4. Joshua NISBET (34. Harrison STEELE 72nd), 9. Jason CUMMINGS (25. Matthew HATCH 78th), 10. Matheus MORESCHE (36. Garang KUOI 72nd), 11. Beni NKOLOLO (7. Cy GODDARD 78th), 14. Kye ROWLES, 15. Storm ROUX, 16. Maximilien BALARD, 18. Jacob FARRELL, 23. Daniel HALL, 27. Nicolai MULLER (12. Marcos URENA 64th)
Unused substitutes: 24. Yaren SOZER (gk), 35. Cameron WINDUST

11. Beni NKOLOLO (Central Coast Mariners) – 26th
9. Jason CUMMINGS (Central Coast Mariners) – 62nd
10. Matheus MORESCHE (Central Coast Mariners) – 65th
25. Matthew HATCH (Central Coast Mariners) – 90+5

4. Joshua NISBET (Central Coast Mariners) – yellow – 31st
9. David BALL (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 33rd
5. James MCGARRY (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 54th
11. Beni NKOLOLO (Central Coast Mariners) – yellow – 76th