Clinical Wellington make it three on the trot against Mariners
Wellington Phoenix’s rise continued unabated as they prevailed with a clinical 3-1 win over a hapless Central Coast Mariners on Sunday afternoon.
Coming into the fixture following a bye, the weekend off had little impact on the Nix at Central Coast Stadium as they notched a third straight win and completed a clean sweep of fixtures against the Gosford-based club this season.
Liberato Cacace netted the opener in his 50th Hyundai A-League game in 18th minute for Ufuk Talay’s side before Gary Hooper doubled the advantage prior to the half-hour with a deft one-on-one finish.
Despite stemming the tide in the second stanza – and fashioning the bulk of the scoring chances through-out the contest – the Mariners simply had no answers to the clinical visitors, as they wrapped up the win through Jaushua Sotirio’s 78th minute strike.
Their only consolation came late as Jair popped up and scored from the top of the box to spoil the visitor’s clean sheet.
The result continues a horror run of results for the Mariners as they now slump to an eighth straight defeat to remain five points adrift at the bottom of the table.
By contrast, the Phoenix now temporarily move ahead of both Melbourne City and Perth Glory , who wrap up Round 22 later today, into second on the Hyundai A-League table.
Cacace delivers the opener for the Nix
It was a hard-fought and evenly balanced opening to the contest, but then the Phoenix's class came to the fore on 18 minutes.
Starting with Reno Piscopo wide on the right, the 'Nix shifted the ball quickly across the field to find Cacace on the fly to tuck away the opener on the back of a pin-point assist from Ulises Davila.
The goal could not have been more timely for Cacace, with the Kiwi marking his 50th Hyundai A-League game.
Hooper doubles the 'Nix lead
The Mariners threatened a response, with Clisby coming close from a free-kick, but again it was the visitors with the killer eye in front of goal just before half-hour.
A lobbed pass from Piscopo caught the Mariners defence square as Hooper broke through one-on-one with the onrushing Mark Birighitti and touched in with a lobbed finish.
The goal is the Englishman's fifth of the Hyundai A-League season.
Chances go begging for the Mariners
The Mariners had fashioned a number of half-chances early in the half but suffered for their execution in the final third - and so it proved again as they sought to peg one back before the break.
Chris Harold headed wide of the target in the 35th minute on the back of a Milan Duric cross, before Kye Rowles flashed a shot across the face of goal in injury time from a corner to frustrate the home fans.
Target continues to elude the Mariners
In the first 20 minutes of the second half the Mariners delivered five unanswered shots but there was still no way through.
Duric found the side-netting just a minute after the restart from the top of the box, while Gianni Stensness missed the target with arguably their best opportunity of the match as his downward header from a corner bounced over the crossbar.
Sotirio takes his chance to seal the points
While the hosts were full huffing and puffing without reward, the Phoenix again showed how to make the most of their scoring opportunities as they added a third in the final quarter hour.
Substitute Jaushua Sotirio delivered the finish with the coolest of one-on-one finishes past Birighitti after being played in behind the Mariners high line by fellow sub Alex Rufer's pin-point release.
Jair delivers late consolation
It was a frustrating afternoon for the hosts but they found a belated bright spot late on as substitute Jair pulled a goal back.
The Brazilian fired the ball home with a strong hit from the top of the box but ultimately it was simply too little, too late for Alen Stajcic's side.
Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners
Friday, 13 March
Kick off: 6.30pm local, 7.30pm AEDT
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory
Sunday, 15 March
Kick off: 6.20pm local, 4.20pm AEDT