Tulio signs off with stunner as Mariners defeat Wanderers

Central Coast Mariners started 2024 just as they left off in 2023, extending their unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions, with a hard fought 1-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers at CommBank Stadium.

Marco Tulio struck the winner in typically stunning style, a perfect parting gift in his final game as a Mariner.

Mark Jackson named an unchanged starting squad, whilst Wanderers manager Marko Rudan was forced to start third-choice goalkeeper Daniel Margush due to a freak injury in the warm-up to goalkeeper Jack Gibson.

Without a fourth choice goalkeeper available, up stepped 20-year-old centre back Anthony Pantazopoulos to don the substitute goalkeeper kit in a bizarre switch.

Margush would be called upon early into his first A-League start of the season, as Alou Kuol got up well to challenge for the ball from Storm Roux’s high cross and Wanderers’ stopper was grateful to have Marcelo on hand to clear off the line.

At the other end, the hosts’ were looking bright early on but didn’t cause Danny Vukovic too much trouble, efforts from Alexander Badolato and Valentino Yuel requiring only routine saves.

The first moment of serious quality in the game, and what proved to be the winner, came in the 25th minute from Tulio.

A crunching tackle from Brad Tapp won possession for the Mariners in the Wanderers’ half, Josh Nisbet found Tulio in space and the Brazilian did the rest from 25 yards.

Yuel then had another effort as Wanderers looked for an equaliser, but couldn’t find the target from a difficult angle.

Nicolas Milanovic, Wanderers’ biggest threat on the night, had their first effort of the second half. He struck it well from distance but the ball was always rising and once again didn’t concern Vukovic.

The young winger had another go from outside the box minutes later but couldn’t find the target with his curling effort.

At the other end, high pressure from the Mariners earned Angel Torres the chance to whip an effort towards goal but Margush got down well to push it wide.

Mariners’ best chance to put clear daylight between themselves and Wanderers came just after the hour mark, Torres again involved as he took on Aiden Simmons with ease and flashed a ball across the six yard box, Jing Reec just unable to provide the telling touch in front of goal.

Tulio then departed to a standing ovation from the large Mariners following inside CommBank on 70 minutes, as him and Tapp, another outstanding performer on the night, were replaced by Miguel Di Pizio and Christian Theoharous.

The Mariners remained dangerous on the break but wouldn’t add to their 1-0 lead, while Oscar Priestman’s low drive that Vuka had to get down to his right to save, was the best the hosts could conjure up as they hunted an equaliser.

The win for the Mariners initially saw us go up to fourth in the Isuzu UTE A-League, however Melbourne City’s late comeback against Western United on Sunday confirmed our place in fifth on the ladder.

Jackson’s side are back in action on Saturday, in their Unite Round fixture against unbeaten league leaders Melbourne Victory.