Mariners close on Reds
The Central Coast Mariners have moved to within a point of second place on the Hyundai A-League ladder with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Adelaide United at Bluetongue Stadium on Boxing Day afternoon.
The Central coast Mariners have moved to within a point of second place on the Hyundai A-League ladder with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Adelaide United at Bluetongue Stadium on Boxing Day.
After a cautious first half from both sides, Mariners striker Matt Simon broke the deadlock in the 51st minute with a stylish solo effort before a Sergio van Dijk own goal in the 78th minute sealed the win for the Central Coast side.
The win lifts the Mariners onto 36 points just one behind the Reds on 37, with the Central Coast side having the advantage of two games in hand over Adelaide and three games in hand over league leaders the Brisbane Roar.
Mariners coach Graham Arnold said after the match it was a 'good Christmas present for everyone'.
"I thought all the players suffered in the first half from the heat, and the tempo wasn't too high but in the second half we came home much stronger and we played much better."
"Even in the first half I thought we were the better side. The second half I was very happy with the effort of the players and again they showed great character."
Adelaide coach Rini Coolen admitted his side was down on confidence and it showed in this match.
"I think it was a pretty flat match, and these type of games can go either way," he said
"But we are in a period where everything is not going well. We have to get through that period but we have to win games."
Both sides started the game cautiously and for the most part it was a fairly uneventful first half.
Adelaide's Paul Reid fired over the bar from 20 metres out in the ninth minute before Central Coast goalkeeper Matthew Ryan was forced to bravely dive at the feet of Joe Keenan after the Reds attacking midfielder followed a lovely through ball from Reid.
The Mariners had their first real chance in the 21st minute when right back Pedj Bojic worked his way around Cassio on the edge of the box to fire in a cross for an unmarked Simon, but he could only head the ball straight into the arms of Eugene Galekovic.
The visitors were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in the 36th minute when Travis Dodd's flick shot from 15 metres out appeared to come off the hand of Mariners defender Joshua Rose, but referee Ryan Shepheard waved play on.
Just a few moments later it was the home side who threatened the goal when another Bojic cross found Simon at the back post. He headed down to the near corner only to see Galekovic produce a sharp reflex save to keep the teams locked at 0-0 at half-time.
Galekovic was again called into action early in the second half when he cleaned up after Central Coast captain Alex Wilkinson leapt high in the six-yard box to head an Oliver Bozanic corner.
Just moments later the home side grabbed the opener when Simon got the better of Iain Fyfe on the left touchline. The big Mariners striker ghosted his way to the edge of the penalty area and looked like passing to an unmarked Patricio Perez in the middle of the paddock, before propping and sneaking a low right-footed shot inside the near post from 18 metres out.
The Reds went close to equalising within five minutes when Marcos Flores sent his near post header just wide of the far post, before Reid went close with a curving long-range effort that flew narrowly wide of the left post.
Adam Kwasnik should have doubled Central Coast's lead in the 61st minute when he got on the end of a Rose cross just six yards out but he fired his header wide of the target.
The frustration started to show for the Reds with Fabian Barbiero and Adam Hughes shown yellow cards in quick succession midway through the second half for over zealous challenges.
The Mariners' Rostyn Griffiths and Simon also went into the book, the latter seemingly hard down by when he finished off an attacking play just as the linesman put his flag up for offside.
Adelaide's Coolen tried to shake things up by bringing on Cameron Watson and Iain Ramsay for Flores and Dodd respectively while the Mariners substituted Kwasnik for Daniel McBreen in the 76th minute.
Just two minutes later Central Coat put the game beyond doubt when van Dijk was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mariners' midfielder Michael McGlinchey fired a looping corner over a throng of players in the penalty area only for it to slide off van Dijk's shin and into his own net.
The Mariners attacked with abandon in the final 10 minutes and went close on a number of occasions, nicely rounding off a productive Boxing Day for the Central Coast side.
Central Coast Mariners 2 (Simon 51, van Dijk 78og) Adelaide United 0 Crowd 6249 at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford