Battle of bottom two lives up to expectations

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 13 – 2017/2018 – Round 21
7:50pm, 23rd February, 2018 – Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (Daniel De Silva 45’+1)
Wellington Phoenix FC 0


The clash of the bottom two teams in the Hyundai A-League at Central Coast Stadium on February 23 lived up to its billing, the 4,973 fans present witnessing a mediocre match won 1-0 by Central Coast Mariners over a Wellington Phoenix team which fully justified its position on the league table.

The bottom-placed visitors were dire throughout the bulk of the proceedings, so much so that they made the pock-marked playing surface look good! Central Coast were a far more attractive proposition to watch, and would have won by more had they not been on a run of form which saw them last win a match eleven games ago.

It took eleven minutes for the first shot in anger to be fired in this contest, and it came about from an Andrew Hoole corner. Dylan Fox’s awkward diving-headed clearance sat up perfectly for Tom Hiariej, whose drive from the edge of the area struck the prone defender on the hand and ricocheted over the bar.

A long-range effort from Wout Brama soon followed – Tando Velaphi grabbed this greedily – before Central Coast produced a delightful move just after the half-hour mark.

Daniel De Silva sprayed the ball wide to Trent Buhagiar, whose teasing cross to the far post found Peter Skapetis ghosting in on cue. He guided an acute-angled header across Velaphi but just past the far post – a raid deserving of better fate.

The timely intervention of Scott Galloway prevented another Buhagiar cross from reaching its intended target in Wellington’s penalty area soon after, while from Hoole’s resulting corner, Central Coast captain Alan Baro directed a neat flick straight at Velaphi.

Wellington’s goalkeeper was right behind another Hiariej effort five minutes before half-time, after Fox had headed another Hoole corner away from the danger zone, while the central defender’s timely intervention prevented the set-piece specialist’s cross from reaching Skapetis just as he was poised to strike sixty seconds later.

Hoole himself went close in the shadows of the half-time whistle with a twenty-yarder, but in first half stoppage time, Central Coast finally got the goal their attack-minded efforts deserved.

Antony Golec played the ball forward to the overlapping Storm Roux, who brought Hoole into play. He worked a slick one-two with Buhagiar before checking and curling a cross into the goalmouth, where De Silva was arriving on cue with a darting run which rendered Tom Doyle statuesque by comparison.

The attacking midfielder stretched out his leg to steer the sphere across Velaphi and in by the far post to net a perfectly timed goal for Central Coast, and a very welcome one as well – not just for the home fans but for the game as a spectacle.

It meant Wellington would have to ditch their anti-football approach and score at least one goal in the second spell, something they didn’t even look remotely like accomplishing during the opening forty-five minutes.

That trend continued early in the second spell, with Hoole doing Galloway a treat before thrashing a cross-shot narrowly past the far post five minutes after play had resumed.

Cue Wellington’s best spell of the match, with Roy Krishna their inspiration. He curled a twelve-yarder against the crossbar in the 56th minute, after two shots had been blocked, while six minutes later he galloped clear down the left, only to rattle the near post side-netting after charging into the penalty area.

Ben Kennedy was finally called upon to make a save in the 65th minute as Matthew Ridenton let rip from twenty-five yards, while four minutes later, both goalmouths survived scares in thirty chaotic seconds of football.

Hoole curled in a free-kick from the left which substitute Blake Powell flicked goalwards with his first touch. The ball struck the far post and required Andrew Durante’s goal-line clearance to prevent Central Coast from doubling their lead.

Wellington’s captain’s clearance allowed Krishna to storm clear of his marker on the left flank. Away the Fijian flyer rampaged before crossing to the far post where Andrija Kaludjerovic, timing his arrival to perfection, thrashed his shot into the side-netting.

The visitors lost their way somewhat after close call, but revived their drooping spirits four minutes from time when substitute Michael McGlinchey’s hip-turn volley flashed narrowly past Kennedy’s left-hand post.

Match details

Crowd: 4,973

Central Coast Mariners FC: Kennedy (gk); McGing, Baro, Golec, Roux; Brama, De Silva, Hiariej (Melling, 73); Buhagiar (Pain, 87), Skapetis ((Powell, 68), Hoole (booked, 90)

Coach: Paul Okon

Wellington Phoenix FC: Velaphi (gk); Galloway, Durante (Paracki, 88), Fox, Doyle (booked, 33); Singh (booked, 48) (McGlinchey, 63), Ridenton, Ljujic (booked, 88); Krishna, Kaludjerovic, Burns (Patterson, 73)

Coach: Darije Kalezić

Ratings and points

Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones /10

Match 4/10
Pitch 4/10

Player points:
3. Hoole (CCM)
2. De Silva (CCM)
1. Krishna (WP)