The Wellington Phoenix are itching to get back on the pitch again following their last match a fortnight ago – an entertaining 2-0 home win against Western United on 21 February.
The Phoenix have now won their last two Hyundai A-League matches on the bounce – while also keeping clean sheets in both games – and are keen to continue building momentum as they inch closer to Finals football.
There are plenty of reasons to expect a high-scoring match this Sunday at Central Coast Stadium; in their last match against Western United, the Mariners conceded six goals, and last season the Phoenix set the club’s all-time scoring record with an 8-2 win at Gosford. And the Phoenix have won their last four matches against the Mariners, averaging nearly four goals per game (3.8) in that stretch.
But Coach Ufuk Talay says that while a bevy of goals would help their ladder positioning – where they sit in a log-jam at fourth place – the club’s focus is solely on picking up the three points.
“Of course we want to win the game and score goals, but for me Central Coast are a decent side and there’s no easy teams in this competition, so we’ll go there primarily for the three points.
“And obviously if we can score a few goals we’ll be pleased with that as well.”
The match is also notable for it being Liberato Cacace’s 50th Hyundai A-League match; the 19-year-old defender will become the youngest Wellington player to ever achieve this feat, in his third season with the Phoenix.
And newly-crowned Hyundai A-League Player of the Month, David Ball, will be looking to extend his tally of five goals and four assists. His two brilliant goals scored in February – against Melbourne City and Western United – were both instrumental in these wins.
It hasn’t been an easy time for Alen Stajcic’s Mariners, who are currently on a seven-game losing streak and sit at the bottom of the ladder with four wins and a league-high 14 losses. Of particular concern to Central Coast has been their goal differential, currently at -24 (19 goals scored against 43 goals conceded), a full eight points worse than 10th placed Newcastle Jets.
While the club sits last in Goal Shooting Accuracy (38.9%), they actually sit first in Set Piece Goals Scored Percentage (57.9%, almost 23% higher than second placed Brisbane Roar), and have won the most penalties out of any club this season.
In fact, each of the Mariners’ last three goals scored on home turf in the Hyundai A-League have been penalties scored by Matt Simon; and those three goals account for three quarters of their home tally so far in 2020.
Both teams will also be looking to avoid picking up any yellow cards in this match; the Mariner’s Gianni Stensness is sitting on four yellows alongside the Phoenix’s Steven Taylor and Cameron Devlin – with any subsequent yellows earning them an automatic suspension.
Did you know?
- The Mariners have lost each of their last three Hyundai A-League home matches, more than they lost in their seven matches prior on home turf (W4, D1, L2).
- The Phoenix and the Mariners have each struck the woodwork nine times this Hyundai A-League campaign, the joint-most of any teams in the competition.
- Wellington’s Cameron Devlin has made 1.2 touches per minute this A-League season (1,153 touches in 979 minutes); he is the only player to have played more than three games and made more than one touch per minute this Hyundai A-League season.
At a Glance:
Date: Sunday, 8 March 2020
Kick-off: 6pm NZT
Venue: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Broadcast: (NZ) Sky Sport 7
Wellington Phoenix Squad:
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 2.Liam McGING, 3.Luke DEVERE, 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 5.Matti STEINMANN, 6.Tim PAYNE, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9. David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12. Brandan Wilson, 13.Liberato CACACE, 14.Alex RUFER, 20.Oliver SAIL (gk), 21.Callum MCCOWATT, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c), 31.Ben WAINE, 32.Sam SUTTON, 88. Gary HOOPER
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 2.Liam McGING (Promoted), 31.Ben WAINE (Promoted)
Unavailable: 16.Louis FENTON (Shoulder – season), 23.Walter SCOTT (Injury – Knee)
Central Coast Mariners Squad:
1. Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 2.Ian Zygmunt GORDON, 3.Jack CLISBY, 4. Eunsun KIM, 7. Milan ÐURIĆ, 8. Michael MCGLINCHEY, 9. Jordan MURRAY, 10. Tommy OAR, 11. Daniel DESILVA, 12. Adam PEARCE (gk), 15. Kye ROWLES, 17. Sam SILVERA, 18. Gianni STENSNESS, 19. Matt SIMON, 21. Ruon TONGYIK, 24. Chris HAROLD, 26. Joshua NISBET, 27. Lewis MILLER, 29. Jair BRITTO, 44. Alou KUOL
**2-4 to be omitted**
In: 10.Tommy OAR (Promoted), 44. Alou KUOL (Promoted)
Outs: Daniel DESILVA (Sickness)