The Central Coast Mariners locked horns with Western United in a clash that had implications for both teams as Mariners look to secure a top six spot and Western United their spot at the top of the table.
It was a tense and tight first half with Jason Cummings striking the post, before in the second, Moresche had his celebration cut short after the linesman signalling that the ball was out of play on the way to him.
The breakthrough would finally come from Garang Kuol off the bench who worked space on the edge and found the bottom corner to give the hosts three points.
Nick Montgomery made one change from Saturday’s dramatic win in Newcastle with Lewis Miller replacing Storm Roux and the hosts started with intent.
Despite not creating many clear-cut chances in the opening ten minutes, the Mariners controlled possession and kept Western United quiet in front of goal, limiting their attempts to shots from distance, of which all were off target.
The game almost sprung into life as Béni Nkololo looked to release Jason Cummings in behind but Jamie Young was on hand to clear up.
With the band marching through the stands, the Mariners were inspired and Jason Cummings had the best chance of the first half when he let rip with a fierce drive from roughly 25 yards and it struck the post, leaving Jamie Young stranded. The ball re-bounded to Béni Nkololo who rocketed one back towards goal but Young palmed it around for a corner.
Nkololo was involved throughout and almost set up Nicolai Müller for the opener before finding grass out wide and whipping a low cross into Moresche who’s effort scooped over the top of goal.
In the second half, the Mariners began with intent and penned Western United deep in their half with the best of the chances falling to Moresche and Cummings’ head but they failed to divert their chances toward goal.
With more expert defensive cover from Dan Hall and Kye Rowles, the Yellow and Navy continued to build pressure and the introduction of Marco Ureña and Harry Steele added to that momentum.
Harry Steele tried his luck from distance and soon the Mariners had the ball in the net and were wheeling away in celebration. Béni Nkololo drove toward the by-line and his cut-back clipped a Western United player on the way across, falling perfectly for Moresche who slammed the ball home. Upon reflection, the ball was out before Nkololo could put the cross in and VAR couldn’t find a clear and obvious error so the game remained at 0-0.
Kye Rowles marshalled well at the back however Lewis Miller up-ended Connor Pain on the extremities of the box and Alex King pointed to the spot. This time, VAR adjudged that the contact was outside the 18 yard markings and Western couldn’t convert from the free-kick.
Garang Kuol came off the bench with fifteen to go and the hosts lifted once more with Cummings setting himself up on the volley and forcing a strong save from Jamie Young.
Just over 12 months ago, Alou Kuol came off the bench to score a brace and secure the Mariners all three points against Western United. This time, it was his 17-year-old brother Garang that sealed the maximum points.
Ureña picked up the ball and played Garang who sat on the edge of the D, worked an angle and curled his effort into the bottom corner. Central Coast Stadium erupted in celebration and the atmosphere continued into the dying embers of the game.
Moresche was next to try his luck from close range and then Garang looked to add another with a riveting strike that dipped majestically through the Central Coast night sky, dipping ever too late though, as it went over the crossbar.
With that, the Marienrs were able to hold out for all three points with a resolute team performance that sees them leapfrog Wellington Phoenix into 5th spot and show that if they were to make finals, they could be a force to be reckoned with.
There is a tight turnaround for Nick Montgomery’s side who will travel to face Brisbane on Tuesday night before facing Newcastle Jets back at home in the last game of the regular season.