The Central Coast Mariners have fallen to a tough defeat against Wellington Phoenix on Sunday afternoon, going down 2-1 at Sky Stadium.
After a slow start in the first half that saw us trail by two at the break, the Mariners turned up the pressure, dominating for the majority of the second half.
With Jason Cummings missing due to illness, the side continued to push for the entire second period, scoring a deserved goal in stoppage time.
Despite having 18 shots to 8 and 55 percent of the possession it was ultimately not enough for the Central Coast, with Wellington holding out for a draw to push them to third.
The Phoenix had the run of the play for the opening 10 minutes, with the home side firing their first warning shot two minutes in.
Kosta Barbarouses having a crack from range, his effort smacking off the crossbar before being cleared to safety.
Wellington were awarded a penalty ten minutes later, with Storm Roux taking down a Phoenix forward running goalward. After VAR intervention it was clear that the foul took place outside of the penalty area, with the decision reversed and Wellington awarded a free kick.
Limited clear-cut chances for both sides followed for the next 15 minutes, with Marco Tulio and Sammy Silvera linking up nicely for the Mariners.
It was ultimately Wellington who did score the opener, coming through Alex Rufer. The Phoenix captain getting on the end of some nice build up play from the home side, originating from Clayton Lewis.
The midfielder crossing the ball into the area, finding the head of Josh Lewis. Rufer getting free at the back post, poking it home to give his side the 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute.
One soon became two eight minutes later, with what was seemingly a foul on Marco Tulio going unpunished before the Phoenix transitioned. The ball finding the feet of Barbarouses, dribbling down the sideline.
The winger passing to an overlapping Callan Elliot, crossing the ball into Oskar Zawada. The Pole free at the back post, smacking it home from close range to give his side the 2-0 lead in the 40th minute.
A few late chances from Wellington almost handed them the third, with only resolute Mariners defending keeping the deficit to just two as both sides went into the sheds.
The Central Coast came out firing in the second half, with Max Balard and Tom Aquilina coming on at the break. Jacob Farrell had an effort from range to kick start our second half, his chance firing just over.
Beni Nkololo almost pulled one back in the 50th minute, coming after a brilliant ball from Sammy Silvera. His cross from 35 yards out finding the head of the Frenchman directly in front, with him hitting it over the bar.
Half chances continued to fall for the Mariners, as Wellington dropped more and more players behind the ball. Tulio almost creating goalscoring chances on numerous occasions with his free kicks, as the Phoenix scrambled well to keep us scoreless.
With our newest signing Christian Theoharous entering the match with 15 minutes remaining, the winger almost pulled off the spectacular. The youngster finding space with some incredible dribbling on the outside, unleashing an effort from an acute angle.
The shot swinging towards the top corner, with only the woodwork denying him in the 76th minute. Soon after he had another chance from close range, with only a spectacular block in the 80th minute on the line from Wellington keeping us to nil.
The Mariners finally got a well-earned goal through Nkololo in the second minute of stoppage time. A long ball from Tulio finding the Frenchman, heading to Paul Ayongo.
The substitute directing his effort towards a sprinting Nkololo, the winger smacking it in from three yards out to take the score to 2-1 in the 92nd minute.
Wellington begun to slow the play down with regular fouls as the seven minutes of stoppage time begun to tick down. With every Phoenix player behind the ball and the entire Mariners squad pushing forward, chances continued to come.
With Danny Vukovic in the box looking for an equaliser the ball fell to Brian Kaltak, who hit it on the half volley. The shot easily kept out by Sail, with the effort the last play of the game.
A heated incident at the end of the match saw both Nectar Triantis and Sail finish with yellow cards, with the Wellington keeper tackling our defender after the full-time whistle.
Tensions flared as both teams fought hard throughout the 90 minutes, with no love lost between the two sides.
The Mariners now immediately turn their focus to Western Sydney next weekend, as we host the Wanderers at Our Paradise on Saturday night.
Despite the result we still sit in second on the Isuzu UTE A-League Men’s ladder, with a win next week important as we push towards the finals series.