Mariners claim top spot

A sensational strike from Hyundai A-League veteran Nik Mrdja has helped boost the Central Coast Marines to top spot on the National Youth League ladder with an impressive 3-1 win over Brisbane Roar in a bruising encounter at Ballymore Stadium on Saturday.

A sensational strike from Hyundai A-League veteran Nik Mrdja has helped boost the Central Coast Marines to top spot on the National Youth League ladder with an impressive 3-1 win over Brisbane Roar in a bruising encounter at Ballymore Stadium on Saturday.

Mrdja struck in the seventh minute before Mariners captain Panny Nikas doubled his side's lead in the 37th minute.

Roar defender Matt Mundy put his side on the scoreboard in the 75th minute, but Mariners attacker Nicholas Fitzgerald had already applied the icing to his side's comfortable victory with a goal in the 73rd minute.

The win sees Central Coast move two points clear of Sydney FC atop the NYL table, although the Sky Blues have a game in hand.

Mrdja trotted through the middle, collected the ball from Brady Smith on the cusp of the box and, while holding off Mundy, struck a commanding blow that an outstretched Roar keeper Matt Acton could do little about.

Nikas' goal came in less spectacular fashion, with the midfielder finding himself one-on-one with Acton after Mundy failed to negotiate a speculative long ball.

The home side will nonetheless take one major positive out of the game, with Hyundai A-League veteran and midfield workhorse Massimo Murdocca making a successful return from a broken leg.

Murdocca sustained the horrific injury in June and the opening half of the NYL fixture was his first taste of competitive football after a long rehabilitation process.

The Roar had their first genuine chance to equalise in the 18th minute when Jordan Farina's pinpoint cross from the corner found Mundy at the far post.

Mundy had time to steady but his powerful strike was directed at Mariners keeper Andrew Redmayne, who calmly snaffled the ball in seamless fashion.

The Roar, under siege for the majority of the first 15 minutes, then sprung to life on the back of Farina, Kenneth Dougall and Tim Smits.

Smits laid off a good ball to Dougall in the box, but the attacking midfielder sprayed his shot to the left of the goal.

Smits played originator once again soon after with a bold pass across goal that put Redmayne in an awkward position, but Farina was unable to find the back of the net.

Smits went close himself in the 33rd minute before a lapse in concentration saw the home side punished by Nikas.

The hosts fought gallantly in the second half, but another lapse in defence allowed Fitzgerald to strike first.

The physical nature of the game was established early on with a nasty collision in the fourth minute between Acton and Dylan McAllister.

McAllister was brought from the ground and substituted soon after for Mitchell Mallia.

Brisbane Roar 1 (Mundy 75) Central Coast Mariners 3 (Mrdja 7, Nikas 37, Fitzerald 73) @ Ballymore Stadium