Five Star Football Sinks Phoenix

The Central Coast Mariners returned for another night of mid-week football under the lights at Central Coast Stadium, this time up against Ufuk Talay’s Wellington Phoenix as a push for finals was the focus for both sides.

Winding the clocks forward again after daylight savings, a beautiful night of football was on the cards as the Yellow Army orchestrated the atmosphere for this vital clash – early goals to Marco Urena and Beni Nkololo set the tone for the remainder of the match, as Jason Cummings, Garang Kuol and Matt Hatch rounded out the scoring in an emphatic victory for the Central Coast Mariners.

Nick Montgomery named an unchanged starting eleven from the team that drew 2-2 with Western United and looked to use the impressive performance as a springboard into this clash as he provided the club with their 100th start to Australian U23 players this season, the first to that mark in the competition.

The first half saw the lion share of chances and possession fall the way of an impressive Mariners outfit – as Béni Nkololo broke into the box in the 7th minute, he crossed paths with Phoenix defender Louis Fenton who brought the Frenchman down in a tangle of legs; penalty Mariners.

The Costa-Rican Marco Ureña stood up to the penalty spot, and with ice in his veins, slotted the ball underneath a diving Oli Sail – low and hard, sending the Mariners a goal to the good early on in this all-important clash.

The Costa Rican continues to impress this season

The active support turned out in numbers, the Yellow Army creating a brilliant atmosphere from minute one and their cheers were heeded by the boys on the pitch – with constant attacking forays into the Wellington third.

Jason Cummings had the chance to put the Mariners two-up after a scramble in the box, his effort deflecting high over a stranded Oli Sail but clipping the outside of the Kiwi’s right-hand post and the score remained at one.

Jacob Farrell was the next to try his luck – after brilliant short passing on the edge of the box between Jason Cummings and Noah Smith, the ball was laid into the path of the onrushing wingback who drove a low effort towards net, saved well by the Phoenix shot-stopper.

From the resulting corner, the Mariners would double their advantage – Joshua Nisbet playing a short corner to Béni Nkololo, taking the ball to dangerous territory on the edge of the box and whipping a curling effort into the far stick – past an outstretched Oliver Sail in net – 2-0 Mariners.

Just five minutes later, Béni looked to grab his second of the night with another edge of the box left-footed effort, clattering the crossbar – the Yellow and Navy consistently knocking on the door throughout the first 45’.

The only downside to the half was an injury in the 33rd minute to inform winger Noah Smith, being replaced by another inform Mariner in Matt Hatch.

The Mariners headed into half-time two goals to the good, and still in the ascendency to the delight of the Mariners fans around Central Coast Stadium.

The second stanza didn’t kick-off as fast paced as the first, but Mariners were still limiting the Phoenix to minimal chances – dogged work in winning the ball back whenever it was misplaced.

It took a trademark Lewis Miller foray into the Wellington box as he touched the ball around Fenton and used his immense pace and strength to get to the ball first and draw contact with another penalty awarded to the Mariners.

This time, it was the Scotsman to step up to make amends for last week’s penalty miss and he made no mistake – firing the ball into the left-hand side of the Phoenix net leaving Sail with no chance, wheeling away with his famous Joker celebration in front of a jubilant Yellow Army.

Matt Hatch celebrates with Jason Cummings after he dispatches his penalty

Cummings fashioned another chance just five minutes later, working his magic just past the halfway line, driving towards the edge of the penalty area and working the space for another attempt on net but Ollie Sail again showed his shot stopping prowess.

A triple substitution in the 68th minute from Nick Montgomery saw the introduction of Nico Müller, Garang Kuol and Moresche, replacing the prolific front three of Urena, Nkololo and Cummings after they had racked up a lot of minutes in recent weeks.

The substitutes would pay dividends almost instantly with Garang Kuol receiving a long ball over the Wellington backline from Lewis Miller, and with his first touch of the game – a deft flick to beat the onrushing Sail – Garang would grab his first A-League goal on his first league appearance.

It was almost a ‘double-sub delight’ as the workhorse Lewis Miller got down his right flank once again, flashing a low-driven cross into the box for the fresh legs of Nico Muller who stretched to put the ball on target only to be rejected by the palm of Sail once again – the Wellington gloveman pulling out all stops for the Phoenix.

The Mariners continued to press from the front with the fresh legs of Kuol and Moresche harrying the Wellington defence until the final whistle.

In the dying stages of the game, the returning Brazilian Moresche found himself in the box surrounded by Phoenix players and with a lay-off to speedster Matt Hatch, the speedy winger would finish with his second bite at the cherry, netting his 3rd goal in four appearances, capping off one of the most well-rounded performances Nick Montgomery and his men have put out thus far.

In winning 5-0, the Mariners scored five goals at home for the first time since 2013 and had their biggest home win since they heaped the same result on the Wellington Phoenix in February of the 2012/13 season.

Securing the three-points in this fashion sets up a blockbuster clash for Pink Round this Saturday, as the Mariners take on Sydney FC in hopes to continue the push for finals football.