Mariners punish sluggish Victory

Central Coast has taken advantage of a sluggish start from defending champion Melbourne to post a surprise 2-0 win in the Hyundai A-League season opener at Etihad Stadium.

Central Coast has taken advantage of a sluggish start from defending champion Melbourne to post a surprise 2-0 win in the Hyundai A-League season opener at Etihad Stadium.

The Mariners pinched the points with two goals inside the first 15 minutes to record their first win in Melbourne since 2005, with Matt Simon opening the scoring in the 10th minute and Rody Vargas deflecting in a Michael McGLinchey shot five minutes later. Melbourne dominated play and possession for much of the rest of the game but could not find an answer with the Mariners' robust defence getting the job done.

It is the first time in the history of the Hyundai A-League that Melbourne has lost its first game of the season but continues somewhat of a hoodoo in season openers for defending champions, with only Sydney in 2006/07 able to win its first game the year after winning the Grand Final.

The Mariners' composed and clinical performance is a strong reminder that one of the Hyundai A-League's most consistent sides will once again be a force to be reckoned with in 2009/10.

Central Coast took the lead with its first real chance of the evening. In the 10th minute, John Hutchison took a free kick from the right and curled it into a bunch of players in the box. The ball rebounded into the path of Simon, who only had to steer it past Glen Moss from short range to make it 1-0.

It was the first time in 475 minutes of Hyundai A-League football that Melbourne had conceded a goal and the first time in 476 minutes that the Victory had leaked a goal at Etihad Stadium.

Melbourne barely had a chance to regather when five minutes later, Moss was picking the ball out of the net again. Poor defence allowed Adam Kwasnik to charge in from the wing and he offloaded it to McGlinchey. The former Celtic man's 30-yard shot was ambitious, but when it took a deflection off the foot of Vargas, Moss was stranded, and the score was 2-0.

Aside from those two goals, there were very few chances for either team in a scrappy first half. Matthew Breeze handed out three bookings to Nigel Boogard, Alex Wilkinson and Evan Berger in a sign of the sort of interrupted game it was in the first 45.

Melbourne's best first half chance fell to Danny Allsopp, who he was unable to put a header away on 25 minutes.

It was a much more purposeful Melbourne early in the second half, with Carlos Hernandez narrowly curling the ball wide and Allsopp and Tom Pondeljak both shooting just over all inside the first 10 minutes of the second half.

A succession of corners on the hour mark did not yield a goal for the home side and Ernie Merrick looked to bolster his attacking options by bringing on Ney Fabiano for Pondeljak. Immediately Hernandez shot just wide from distance.

The defensive pressure was building on the Mariners with Brad Porter and Hutchison both booked, while up the other end Pedj Bojic shot well over from a well-placed free kick.

Fabiano's shot from a Nick Ward cross was blocked by Danny Vukovic in the 82nd minute and Allsopp headed over from another Ward cross five minutes later but those chances were rarities late in the game as the Mariners composed themselves to snuff out Melbourne's run from midfield and record an impressive win.

Melbourne Victory 0 Central Coast Mariners 2 (Simon 10, McGlinchey 15) Crowd: 18,885 at Etihad Stadium