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

Another heavy defeat for the undermanned Wellington Phoenix in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

Without nine squad members due to injuries and COVID-19, the Phoenix have been beaten 5-0 by Central Coast Mariners at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, three days after losing 6-0 to Melbourne City.

The Mariners led 2-0 at halftime and scored their second penalty of the match shortly after the break to take the game out of reach. They added a fourth goal midway through the second-half and completed the scoring with the last kick of the game.

Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay told media post-game that the back-to-back defeats have exposed the lack of depth in their squad.

“Obviously a poor result. You can see that we’re desperately in need of certain players coming back into the team,” Talay said.

“I think we made life a lot more difficult when we concede a penalty in the eighth minute of the game and we concede from a set piece as well.

“At the end of the day we weren’t good enough and it shows the lack of depth that we’re struggling with at the moment.”

Despite the result, the Phoenix remain seventh on the A-League ladder, just a point outside the top six and a point above Central Coast.

“The good thing is we have got an extra day before we play our next game,” Talay said.

“The boys will recover tomorrow and then we’ll get two actual sessions on the park where we can actually do some tactical work as well.

“The hardest thing with the games being so close together is we spend most of the time trying to recover and recoup and then get them back on the park at least fresh enough to play a game.”

Ufuk Talay made two changes to the XI which started the defeat to Melbourne City on Saturday. All Whites defender Tim Payne was named to partner Scott Wootton at the heart of defence, with Finn Surman dropping to the bench. Callan Elliot got the nod at right back, with Louis Fenton moving to the left fullback role to replace James McGarry.

Academy products Riley Bidois and Luis Toomey were named amongst the substitutes, a couple of days after joining the first team in Sydney. Forward Jaushua Sotirio, who missed the past three matches with a hamstring strain, was also on the bench.

The Nix found themselves a goal down shortly after kick-off, when the dangerous Frenchman Beni Nkololo earned the Mariners a penalty in the sixth minute. Costa Rican Marcos Urena converted from the spot, striking a shot hard and slow to Oli Sail’s right.

Gael Sandoval had a great chance to draw Wellington level in the 17th minute, when David Ball laid off a Ben Waine cross to the Mexican on the edge of the penalty area. But Sandoval pulled his shot just wide of the Mariners’ goal.

Moments later Central Coast struck the woodwork and midway through the first half Jacob Farrell forced a great save from Sail. From the resulting corner, Nkololo bent an inch-perfect shot inside the far post to double the Mariners lead.

The Frenchman came close to a second on the half hour mark, when he rattled the crossbar with another curling effort.

Ball also found the woodwork in the 34th minute, heading a Sandoval free-kick against the crossbar.

It was the closest the Phoenix came to scoring in the first-half, with Central Coast taking a 2-0 halftime lead.

The Nix made a promising start to the second-half but soon found themselves three goals down. Jason Cummings sent Sail the wrong way from the spot in the 55th minute after Lewis Miller earned the Mariners a penalty.

Cummings came close to scoring two in six minutes, but Sail was able to tip the Central Coast striker’s shot around his post.

Talay made a double change with half an hour remaining, bringing on Reno Piscopo and Sotirio to try and pull a goal back. He also handed a senior debut to Bidois 15 minutes from fulltime.

The Mariners had their fourth midway through the second-half, when young substitute Garang Kuoi got in between the Phoenix defence and their ‘keeper and nestled a first-time shot into the back of the net.

Oli Sail did everything he could to ensure there was no repeat of the score line from Saturday with the Nix captain producing two fine saves to prevent Central Coast substitutes Nicolai Muller and Matheus Moresche adding to the Mariners’ tally in the final quarter of the hour.

Sail also stopped Matthew Hatch at the first time of asking, but he wasn’t to prevent Hatch’s follow-up with what was the last kick of the game.

The Wellington Phoenix continue their hectic schedule on Saturday afternoon when they face second-placed Western United in Ballarat.
Wellington Phoenix: 20. Oli SAIL (gk) (c), 4. Scott WOOTTON, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Gael SANDOVAL, 8. Ben OLD (10. Reno PISCOPO 62nd), 9. David BALL (36. Riley BIDOIS 75th), 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON (11. Jaushua SOTIRIO 62nd), 16. Louis FENTON, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 18. Ben WAINE, 19. Sam SUTTON
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 33. Finn SURMAN, 34. Jackson MANUEL, 38. Luis TOOMEY

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk) (c), 3. Lewis MILLER, 4. Joshua NISBET, 5. Noah SMITH (25. Matthew HATCH 34th), 9. Jason CUMMINGS (27. Nicolai MULLER 62nd), 11. Beni NKOLOLO (36. Garang KUOI 62nd), 12. Marcos URENA (10. Matheus MORESCHE 62nd), 14. Kye ROWLES, 16. Maximilien BALARD (34. Harrison STEELE 82nd), 18. Jacob FARRELL, 23. Daniel HALL
Unused substitutes: 24. Yaren SOZER (gk), 15. Storm ROUX

12. Marcos URENA (Central Coast Mariners) – 8th
11. Beni NKOLOLO (Central Coast Mariners) – 24th
9. Jason CUMMINGS (Central Coast Mariners) – 55th
36. Garang KUOI (Central Coast Mariners) – 68th
25. Matthew HATCH (Central Coast Mariners) – 90+3

16. Louis FENTON (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 89th
4. Scott WOOTTON (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 90+1