THE Wellington Phoenix suffered their second successive defeat at home in the Hyundai A-League when going down 3-0 to the Central Coast Mariners at Westpac Stadium tonight.
In front of 5778 hometown fans braving chilly and windy conditions, the Phoenix failed to push on from their gutsy away win in Perth as the visitors – with a brace to Joshua Rose and a late tap-in from Adam Kwasnik – underlined their top four credentials.
The loss, the seventh for the Phoenix in 14 games this season, leaves them mid-table and needing to replicate the midway surge like they performed last season to power into the playoffs.
The home side started brightly and up several notches from their last home outing – a loss to Brisbane Roar. Leo Bertos, in particular, made a football nuisance of himself in the attacking third as the Phoenix midfield controlled the early exchanges.
However, it was the Mariners who had the better chances – Michael McGlinchey spraying high and wide when in space in the 10th minute and Phoenix goalkeeper Mark Paston having to punch clear a close-range header from Daniel McBreen five minutes later. It was third time lucky for the visitors in the 17th minute when defender Rose curled a right-foot strike perfectly past Paston to open the scoring.
It was Paul Ifill, near the half hour mark, who fired the first shot in anger for the home side with a right-foot drive that flashed over the crossbar. It was a precursor to a frenetic passage of play that closed out the first half, starting with a stinging drive from Vince Lia cleared by Mariners goalkeeper Matthew Ryan. Moments later, Andrew Durante just failed to fully connect with a delightful cross from Simon Elliott and in the following play the Phoenix captain powered another header just wide of the post from an Ifill cross.
The Phoenix showed urgency on the resumption as they pushed toward their favoured end housing the Yellow Fever fans. Elliott delivered a 30m midfield thunderbolt that beat goalkeeper Ryan but not the crossbar in the 57th minute.
Soon after, the Mariners were correctly denied by the linesman-s offside flag when Patrick Zwaanswijk-s close-range header past Paston was disallowed.
The Phoenix found the woodwork in the 64th minute from a Chris Greenacre glancing header that had the goalkeeper beaten. From the resulting scramble Tim Brown collected his fifth yellow card of the season for a late tackle on Ryan.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert went for fresh legs in the form of Daniel midway through the final stanza, replacing the hard-working Brown. Soon after, Troy Hearfield took to the playing pitch for Jade North.
The sting was taken from the home side in the 80th minute when Rose-s strike from inside the penalty area snuck inside Paston-s near post. Former Phoenix player Kwasnik completed the scoring in the 86th minute with a simple tap-in from close range after being left unmarked.
The Phoenix next play the struggling Newcastle Jets at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Saturday, November 20.