Match Report: Late Wellington goal denies Mariners three points 

The Central Coast Mariners had to settle for a point in Wellington on Sunday afternoon, after a late Phoenix goal secured a draw for the home side.

In the opening match of the season for the Mariners, many fresh faces received their Central Coast debut.

With Dan Hall still serving his one match suspension and Nectar Triantis away with the young Socceroos, it was club debutant Kelechi John returning from injury who partnered with Brian Kaltak for his professional debut. 

Fellow starter Paul Ayongo received his first Mariners jersey, along with substitutes Michael Ruhs, Thomas Aquilina and Marco Tulio. 

The game also acted as a homecoming for Sammy Silvera and captain Danny Vukovic, both of whom have returned to the Mariners after time away from the club. 

After an even start to the match the Mariners really begun to find some rhythm late in the first half, creating chances as the team begun to gel on the park. 

Despite conceding late, the side will take many lessons and positives from the match, as we look to continue our two-year finals streak. 

After an evenly contested opening half an hour without any clear-cut chances, Mariners captain Danny Vukovic needed to pull out a remarkable save to keep the scores level. 

After Kosta Barbarouses found space near the penalty spot in the 30th minute, the forward attempted to poke the ball home from close range, only for a strong Vukovic hand to deny him. 

Just minutes later the Mariners thought that they had found the opening goal of the match, after a spectacular bicycle kick from Jason Cummings evaded the outstretched arm of Wellington goalkeeper Oli Sail. 

Despite being awarded on the field, VAR denied the Socceroo his first of the campaign after ruling him offside. 

While putting pressure on the home side late the Mariners were unable to put another in the back of the net before the break, with the scores locked at nil-all at half time. 

Central Coast appeared to be in line for a penalty in the opening minutes of the second half, when a Brian Kaltak header appeared to strike the arm of a Phoenix player in the 51st minute.

Despite being looked at by the VAR, a penalty was not awarded with play allowed to continue. 

Wellington got their first shortly after through forward Ben Waine in the 57th minute. The striker finding space behind the Mariners defence, chipping it over Vukovic to give the home side the lead. 

It took just two minutes for the Central Coast to get back on level terms, with Sammy Silvera producing a wonderful run and strike to get the Mariners back in the game. 

The winger collected the ball 30 metres out from goal, dribbling past multiple Wellington defenders before unleashing an effort. His rocket found the bottom corner, leaving the score at 1-1 in the 59th minute.

One soon became two as Jason Cummings wasn’t to be denied a second time, finishing off a beautiful play in the 64th minute to give us a 2-1 lead. 

After collecting a perfectly waited ball from strike partner Paul Ayongo, Cummings showed skill and composure, taking a touch outside the box before lobbing the ball over Sail’s head and into the back of the net. 

Over the following 20 minutes the Mariners made a raft of changes, with Aquilina, Ruhs, Tulio, Steele and Jok all coming on.

After holding out Wellington’s attack well until the final moments of the match, a momentary lapse in concentration handed Wellington an equaliser in the 88th minute. 

Off the back of a Nicholas Pennington corner, Ayongo got his head to the ball first at the near post, directing it through the hands of Vukovic and into the net. 

A late free kick on the edge of the area from Tulio sailed high in the dying seconds of the match, proving to be the last chance of the game with the score ending 2-2. 

Despite not securing the victory there were plenty of positives to come out of the match for the Mariners, being the first competitive game for the side this season. 

All eyes now turn to next weekends Isuzu UTE A-League men’s clash against Perth Glory, with three important points on the line at home.

The match is scheduled to kick off at 5pm on Sunday at Central Coast Stadium. Get your tickets HERE!