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

More late drama at Sky Stadium in Wellington, but this time it has gone the Wellington Phoenix’s way.

The Phoenix have drawn 2-2 with the Central Coast Mariners in their second round Isuzu UTE A-League match, thanks to an 88th minute Mariners own goal.

It came a week after Adelaide United scored a stoppage time equaliser against Wellington in the season opener at the same venue.

Match Highlights | Wellington Phoenix vs Central Coast Mariners

Ben Waine scored his second goal in as many games to put the Nix in front against Central Coast, before the Mariners found the back of the net twice in five minutes to grab the lead.

Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay was happy that his side managed to “at least salvage a point out of the game”.

“I think we had some good moments in the first half, [but] we weren’t clinical,” Talay told media post-match. “I think we lacked a bit of composure. We wanted to rush things.

“I don’t think Central Coast really created anything or hurt us. I think we gave them two goals which is disappointing, but we’ll look back at that and see how we can fix that.

“Very pleased to get the equaliser. We were 2-1 down and the boys did a fantastic job to get back into the game and get a point.”

Centre back Josh Laws looked to have claimed the equaliser, which came from a Nicholas Pennington corner, but replays showed the final touch came from the head of Mariners forward Paul Ayongo, who beat his ‘keeper Danny Vukovic.

“It doesn’t bother me who scores,” Talay said.

“If Waineo scores, if Pennington scores, I think about the team more than the individual. Whoever wants to claim it can claim it.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – OCTOBER 16: Nicholas Pennington of the Phoenix celebrates after helping set up a late equaliser in their round two A-League Men’s match between Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast Mariners at Sky Stadium, on October 16, 2022, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images)

Waine was promoted to the starting line-up in the absence of the suspended Yan Sasse.

“I think he’s matured as a player. I think he’s developed physically as well, he understands the role a lot better. I think he understands what we expect of him within that position that he plays.

“He’s very, very hungry. He wants to be successful, and he has a lot of ambition and drive to get to the next level as well. For me that’s very promising as a coach.”

Ufuk Talay made one other change to the XI, with fit-again midfielder Clayton Lewis replacing Pennington, while Kosta Barbarouses dropped back into midfield.

Barbarouses was at the heart of a bright start from the Phoenix, with his left-footed shot from outside the box calling Vukovic into action in the fifth minute.

Vukovic wasn’t tested for the next 25 minutes though, with the Nix unable to find the target with the few openings they’re created.

Wellington had a great chance to take the lead shortly after the half hour mark when Oskar Zawada burst into the area and cut the ball back to the penalty spot. Barbarouses and Waine got in each other’s way but still forced a top drawer save from the veteran Socceroos shot stopper.

The Mariners had the ball in the back of the net in the 38th minute, when Jason Cummings beat Oli Sail with a clever overhead. But after a long deliberation the Video Assistant Referee ruled the goal out for offside.

Waine had a couple of opportunities to test Vukovic in the closing moments of the half but was unable to call the Central Coast captain into action with either his right or left foot.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – OCTOBER 16: Ben Waine of the Phoenix controls the ball during the round two A-League Men’s match between Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast Mariners at Sky Stadium, on October 16, 2022, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images)

The young All Whites forward was in the thick of the action early in the second-half.

Waine found the back of the net from a great flick on from Zawada in the 53rd minute, but it was ruled out for offside.

He couldn’t be denied four minutes later, expertly chipping Vukovic after being put through on goal by Steven Ugarkovic.

Samuel Silvera answered for Central Coast almost immediately, driving into the box and then tucking the ball out of reach of Sail’s right hand and into the bottom corner.

Five minutes later the Mariners took the lead. Cummings cleverly chipped Sail with his left foot after getting on the end of an inch-perfect through ball from Ayongo.

Zawada and substitute Sam Sutton blazed narrowly wide of the Central Coast goal in the closing stages before the Nix earned a corner in the 88th minute and Pennington’s delivery was deflected into the back of the net.

The Phoenix pushed hard for a match-winner but were unable to crack a resolute Mariners’ defence.

The Wellington Phoenix will leave Aotearoa for the first time this A-League season next week when they play the Jets in Newcastle.

Wellington Phoenix: 
20. Oli SAIL (gk) (c), 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES 9. Oskar ZAWADA (24. Oskar VAN HATTUM 85th), 11. Bozhidar KRAEV (8. Ben OLD 62nd), 12. Lucas MAURAGIS (19. Sam SUTTON 62nd), 18. Ben WAINE, 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS (13. Nicholas PENNINGTON 81st)
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 3. Finn SURMAN, 17. Callan ELLIOT

Central Coast Mariners: 20. Danny VUKOVIC(gk) (c), 3. Brian KALTAK, 4. Joshua NISBET, 6. Maximilien BALARD (13. Harrison STEELE 75th), 7. Samuel SILVERA (98. Marco TULIO 89th), 9. Jason CUMMINGS (21. Michael RUHS 75th), 11. Beni NKOLOLO, 15. Storm ROUX, 17. Kelechi JOHN (2. Thomas AQUILINA 68th), 18. Jacob FARRELL, 90. Paul AYONGO (29. Dor JOK 89th)
Unused substitutes: 24. Yaren SOZER (gk), 22. Cameron WINDUST

18. Ben WAINE (Wellington Phoenix) – 57th
7. Samuel SILVERA (Central Coast Mariners) – 60th
9. Jason CUMMINGS (Central Coast Mariners) – 65th
90. Paul AYONGO (Central Coast Mariners) – 88th og

17. Kelechi JOHN (Central Coast Mariners) – 16th
90. Paul AYONGO (Central Coast Mariners) – 18th
9. Oskar ZAWADA (Wellington Phoenix) – 31st
13. Harrison STEELE (Central Coast Mariners) – 77th