Wanderers begin new era with a win over gutsy Mariners
Western Sydney Wanderers have marked Jean-Paul de Marigny's first game in charge with a 3-1 win on the road over a gallant Central Coast Mariners on Sunday afternoon.
The Mariners fought hard throughout the contest but it was new Wanderers recruit Simon Cox who had the final say, coming off the bench to score the sealer in what was a largely impressive display from the Red and Black at Central Coast Stadium.
The Wanderers looked a reinvigorated outfit from the get-go as Pirmin Schwegler bombed forward to fire a warning shot at the hosts inside 30 seconds.
But the best chance for either side to score fell first to Mariners striker Jordan Murray when he cut inside Dylan McGowan and had what seemed like an age to get his shot away, but he leant back on the strike as it sailed over the bar from close range.
Moments later it was Western Sydney's turn to attack and German creator Nicolai Müller came close to opening the scoring when he played the ball through Jack Clisby's legs on a counter attack but cut his shot across goal.
The Wanderers continued to press and eventually got reward for effort when they trapped the Mariners playing out from the back; Clisby misplaced a pass to Kye Rowles under pressure from Bruce Kamau, who won the ball and played in Müller to drive an emphatic strike into the back of the net, giving the visitors a one goal lead at half time.
Both sides emerged from the sheds for the second half and got straight down to creating chances, with Kamau and Murray both going close to finishing off well-worked attacking plays from their respective sides.
But the Wanderers always looked the more likely to score and on the hour mark they stepped up their intent.
Schwegler went forward again to launch a brutal strike from outside the box which rattled the crossbar, before Müller crafted a chance for Mitchell Duke from close range which the Wanderers captain blasted off Birighitti's head from close range which somehow evaded the back of the net.
But there was nothing Birighitti could do about Duke's next attempt after new Wanderers signing Cox came off the bench to earn a penalty which Duke stepped up to dink into the back of the net and extend the Wanderers' lead to two.
Staring down the barrel of a home defeat the Mariners needed a spark and found one through Matt Simon who earned his side a penalty with ten minutes on the clock, beating Schwegler to the ball in the box and drawing a fowl; Simon gathered himself off the deck to score the spot kick and bring his side within a goal of the Wanderers.
The Mariners are no strangers to a comeback this season and almost snatched a point when Dylan Ruiz-Diaz fired a header toward the Wanderers' goal, but Daniel Lopar pulled off a save of stunning proportions to tip the ball around the post and keep his side in the lead.
The visitors were absorbing all the pressure late as the Mariners pushed hard for an equaliser and eventually repelled to score a third on a swift counter attack sparked by Mohamed Adam, who played Müller into the box to tee up Cox for a simple tap in that sealed the result in the Wanderers' favour.
Murray can't convert genuine scoring chance
Allowed far too much space in the box Murray took full advantage, crafting himself an excellent chance to opening the scoring.
But the Mariners striker could only blast his strike high over the bar in what can only be described as a wasted chance to put his side ahead.
Müller finishes off Wanderers' offensive trap
The Wanderers allowed Central Coast to play out from the back but Kamau pounced when the ball was played out to Clisby, forcing a turnover and handing Müller a terrific chance to score.
The German took full advantage, hammering a strike past Mark Birighitti to put the visitors ahead.
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Birighitti saves a certain goal with his head
He didn't know much about the stop, but Birighitti kept his side in the contest when Duke fired a strike from inside the six-yard box directly into the face of the Mariners goalkeeper.
As the ball drifted away to safety Duke was left to ponder how his close-range attempt didn't find its way into the back of the net.
Duke 'Panenka' hands Wanderers a two-goal lead
Cox drew a foul from Oar in the box on his Wanderers debut which gave Duke a chance from the spot to make it two, which the Wanderers captain took with ease.
He sized up the target from the spot and sent Birighitti to the deck, chipping the ball down the middle to make it 2-0.
Simon wins and scores a penalty to make it interesting
Simon was at his industrious best for the Mariners after coming off the bench for the second half, earning a penalty for his troubles after catching Schwegler napping on a high ball in the box.
Simon got in front of Schwegler who kicked out at the Mariners striker, giving away a penalty which Simon drove into the back of the net to bring his side back into the contest.
Cox puts the result beyond doubt
The Wanderers soaked up immense pressure late in the piece to score a wonderfully-worked goal on the counter attack to put the result to bed.
Adam drove down the right flank, playing a ball across the box to Müller who fed Cox in on goal with one touch, and the striker nestled his shot in the bottom right corner to make it 3-1.
Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers
Saturday, 8 February
Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Kick off: 5.00pm AEDT
Newcastle Jets v Central Coast Mariners
Sunday, 9 February
McDonald Jones Stadium
Kick off: 4.00pm AEDT