A Saturday evening return to Central Coast Stadium quite literally brought the heat, as Nick Montgomery’s Central Coast Mariners faced off against Carl Robinson’s Western Sydney Wanderers outfit for Round 5 of the Isuzu UTE A-League Men’s.
It was to be the perfect occasion for the Mariners captain Oliver Bozanic as he marked his milestone match with a superb free-kick at the death adding to Cy Goddard’s earlier strike to end the afternoon with a strong 2-0 victory.
Unlike last week in the 2-0 win over Sydney FC, the first half began a cagey affair between the two sides with early sparring in the midfield led by captain Oliver Bozanic as he marked his 100th A-League appearance.
Matheus Moresche and Josh Nisbet showcased a few tidy touches early on as the Mariners looked to break the Wanderers defensive bank on the counterattack, between the drinks breaks – a necessity due to the searing heat.
The early back-and-forth between the two sides allowed for Kye Rowles to display his brilliant form as he expertly stifled the Wanderers attack on multiple occasions, whilst Lewis Miller’s marauding runs down the right flank were a fantastic outlet to turn defence into attack.
Miller’s runs lead to one of the best chances in the first half, playing in Urena whose searching ball across the 6-yard box was narrowly missed by a stretching Moresche at the far post.
As the game moved into the later stages of the first half, the chances began to build – Cy Goddard becoming more involved in the play as his cut-inside, turned shot, was saved by Mejias at his near post.
Urena found himself in brilliant pockets of space throughout the first half with the final finish just narrowly eluding him on a couple of occasions – his final chance before the half time whistle saw the ball flash narrowly past Mejias right-hand post.
The Mariners came out with the ascendancy in the second stanza as they looked to push for an opener.
The wide play from Goddard and Miller specifically would culminate in a brilliant counterattack that saw the ball whipped dangerously across the front of the goalmouth to find an unmarked Cy Goddard to slam the ball high into the roof of the net to break the deadlock – 1-0.
Max Balard entered the fray in the 65th minute and was thrust straight into the action – winning the ball in the midfield and sending a perfectly-weighted ball into Urena who came close to finding the finish moments later.
After the opener, the Western Sydney Wanderers began to push harder for an equaliser.
Once again, the combination of Dan Hall and Kye Rowles in the heart of defence, alongside the determined Jacob Farrell and Lewis Miller down the flanks stemmed any dangerous Wanderers attack and it was another exceptional defensive display from the youthful backline.
A second clean sheet in as many weeks was well-earned from Montgomery’s men as they still found chances to break with plenty of willing runners in trying conditions.
A final two substitutes saw home debuts for Nicolai Müller and Manny Aguek to a roaring reception from the Mariners faithful.
Müller showed his quality instantly as he plucked the ball out of the sky, before being fouled multiple times – his introduction assisting the Mariners in retaining the ball again as they did for a large portion of the match.
The final chance fell in the last minute of stoppage time as Nisbet was fouled on the edge of the box and up stepped Oliver Bozanic. It was a moment made for the Mariners captain on his 100th appearance in the Isuzu UTE A-League.
A brilliant curling effort nestled the ball into the top corner, and Bozanic wheeled away in delight to the ecstatic Coasties; putting his stamp on a milestone fixture for the Mariners number eight and ensuring the 3 points remain on The Coast once again.
The Mariners will be in action one more time before Christmas as they travel to Leichardt for their FFA Cup Quarter Final against APIA Leichardt on Tuesday evening.