The Phoenix have fallen to the Central Coast Mariners 2-0 tonight, in an intense match which featured an early red card, injuries and a resilient Wellington side locking down on defence in the final 40 minutes of the match – all while reduced down to 10 men.
WATCH: Match Highlights of WELvCCM
I thought we started off well, got into good areas but didn’t capitalise [on the opportunities] and the going down to 10 men made it difficult. - Talay
With regulars Tomer Hemed and Jaushua Sotirio out due to injury, the Phoenix would suffer the additional loss of midfielder Cameron Devlin before the start of the match; a returning Reno Piscopo and Matt Ridenton tasked with replacing their work-rate in the starting line-up.
The match kicked off with the Phoenix in full control; James McGarry with an early attempt blocked form the left side of the box. While the Nix would enjoy the lion’s share of ball possession in the first 10 minutes, The Mariner’s defence – led by the efforts of their captain Oliver Bozanic – would keep the home team at bay.
The Mariners first attempt on goal would be an errant header from Jack Clisby, before Marinovic registered a pair of tough saves – the latter a bullet from Matt Simon which the Nix goalkeeper anticipated perfectly. Wellington would look increasingly comfortable against the top-seeded Mariners in the first 25 minutes, controlling the match on both ends of the field.
A sliding challenge on the ball versus Simon would see David Ball given a red card at the 27 minute mark; Wellington reduced to 10 men for the remainder of the match. The Phoenix would take the opportunity to bring on Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi in place of Joshua Laws, after the latter came off second best following an aerial challenge earlier in the match.
An attempt by Clayton Lewis at 32 minutes would be on the mark, but saved by Mariners goalkeeper Mark Birighitti. Central Coast would return the favour at the other end; a long-range attempt from Bozanic handily saved by Marinovic.
It would be Simon who would strike first for the Mariners at the 40 minute mark, slotting home a goal from the centre of the box – his third goal in three matches – on a through ball from Marcos Ureña. The Phoenix would hold on until the end of the first half, down 0-1 but not out of the fight by any means.
The second half would begin with a Joshua Nisbet attempt just minutes into the match, his effort striking the woodwork. Moments later Daniel De Silva would draw a foul in the penalty area, and Bozanic would convert the subsequent penalty to put the Mariners up 2-0.
An apparent knee concern for Luke DeVere minutes later would see the experienced centre back leave the field, with Liam McGing taking his place and Louis Fenton subbing in for Tim Payne.
The 10-man Phoenix would mount a gritty defensive effort in the final 40 minutes with Marinovic making multiple saves in goal despite pressure from the Mariners, but Wellington unable to convert any chances of their own – the home team falling 2-0 to Central Coast at the final whistle.
Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay would give an assessment of the match afterwards.
“I thought we started off well, got into good areas but didn’t capitalise [on the opportunities] and the going down to 10 men made it difficult,” said Talay.
“I thought the boys worked hard but for me it’s a tough pill to swallow – going down to 10 men for 60 minutes is a lot of work for our players, but I’m comfortable with how they performed in that situation.”
Talay says that the squad will continue to have a belief in themselves and will look to stay positive while they focus on the matches ahead.
“Next up we’ve got a few niggly injuries at the moment, but we’ll have to adapt with the players that we have and put out the best team we can.
“We have the belief, we’ll need to stay strong and work out ways – tweak a few things – to get the outcome that we need.”
The win sees Central Coast maintain their position on top of the A-League ladder; their 18 points in eight matches this season already equaling their season total for the entire 2019/20 campaign.
With what was meant to the Phoenix’s next match - against Melbourne Victory on 17 February -called off because of the five day lockdown in Victoria, the team will next face Western Sydney Wanderers at WIN Stadium on 21 February.
This will be Wellington’s first time facing the Wanderers this season, which will also see both teams contesting the Sister Cities Shield.
Wellington Phoenix Starting XI
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 3.Luke DEVERE, 5.James MCGARRY, 6.Tim PAYNE, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA(c), 12.Matthew RIDENTON, 14.Alex RUFER, 21.Joshua LAWS, 23.Clayton Lewis
Central Coast Mariners Starting XI
1.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 5.Stefan NIGRO, 6.Gianni STENSNESS, 8.Oliver BOZANIC (c), 10.Daniel DESILVA, 11.Jack CLISBY, 12.Marcos UREÑA, 15.Kye ROWLES, 19.Matt SIMON, 21.Ruon TONGYIK, 22.Michal JANOTA
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
30’ ON Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI OFF 21.Joshua LAWS
59’ ON 15.Mirza MURATOVIC OFF 6.Reno PISCOPO
59’ ON 16.Louis FENTON OFF 6.Tim PAYNE
68’ ON 2.Liam MCGING OFF 3.Luke DEVERE
Central Coast Mariners Substitutions
45’ ON 4.Joshua NISBET OFF 22.Michal JANOTA
77’ ON 14.Daniel BOUMAN OFF 19.Matt SIMON
78’ ON 29.Alou KUOL OFF 12.Marcos UREÑA
84’ ON 3.Lewis MILLER OFF 5.Stefan NIGRO
91’ ON 26.Jaden CASELLA OFF 10.Daniel DESILVA
40’ Matt SIMON (Central Coast Mariners)
50’ Oliver BOZANIC (Central Coast Mariners) (PENALTY)
Match Week 9: Wellington Phoenix versus Western Sydney Wanderers, WIN Stadium in Wollongong, 21 Feb 2021, kick-off at 6.10pm AEDT (8.10pm NZ time)