Mariners fend off Perth to strengthen grip on top spot
Central Coast Mariners are back on the winners list after scoring twice in the first half to survive a fightback from Perth Glory and record a 2-1 win at HBF Park on Tuesday night.
Goals to Matt Simon and Marco Ureña put the league leaders in a commanding position at the break. Bruno Fornaroli struck in the second half to bring the hosts back into the contest but the mountain was too steep to climb for Perth, as the Mariners strengthened their grip on top spot on the A-League table.
Diego Castro dropped to the bench after Perth's 3-1 win over Brisbane Roar on Friday night as the Mariners emerged from an 11-day break to storm into the lead after six minutes through Simon's close-range finish.
Glory quickly found themselves behind the eight ball and it could have easily been worse for the hosts if the dangerous Ureña converted a pair of chances throughout the opening half-hour of play.
But the Costa Rican forward finally got reward for effort in the 40th minute, heading home at the back post after Daniel De Silva's whipped free-kick to double the Mariners' advantage.
Richard Garcia brought Castro off the bench at the break, then made a triple-substitute just before the hour mark which helped bring Perth back into the game.
Kosuke Ota and Andy Keogh entered the contest and soon after the former attempted to find the latter with a cross from the left flank. Keogh's missed header allowed Bruno Fornaroli to meet the ball in the goal-mouth to nod his side to within one of the Mariners.
But that was all the hosts could muster as the Mariners clung onto their lead until the final whistle, moving four points clear at the top of the table at the end of Matchweek 10.
The Mariners showed intention to remind the hosts why they led the league heading into the fixture at HBF Park when they raced ahead thanks to Simon's sixth-minute opener.
The Mariners striker benefited from two headed passes from Stefan Nigro to Daniel Bouman and into his path in the box, controlling the ball down off his chest and sliding a shot easily past Tando Velaphi.
The Gosford side were buoyed by the early goal and instantly set about carving out more opportunities, with Ureña twice threatening to double the advantage.
Darryl Lachman snuffed out the initial chance with a desperate challenge to end the Costa Rican's run toward goal before Ureña's touch and shot off Nick D'Agostino's header flashed just wide of goal.
In the middle of the two Mariners chances came a penalty cry down the other end when Nick Sullivan's cross deflected into Ruon Tongyik's hand as the ball fizzed past the face of goal. A VAR check ensued but the Mariners defender was cleared of any wrongdoing and play continued.
Carlo Armiento struck a vicious strike from distance over Mark Birighitti's crossbar before Ureña came to the fore again in a busy first half, putting another right-footed shot wide before heading the Mariners two goals ahead.
De Silva whipped a cross to the back post from a free-kick on the right flank and Ureña lost the marker of D'Agostino as he glanced the ball off the post and into the back of the net.
MW10 REPORT: Western Sydney Wanderers 0-2 Melbourne City
Castro appeared from the start of the second stanza for Perth and it wasn't long until Richard Garcia dipped into his bench to bring three more substitutes to the fore, with Ota, Brandon Wilson and Keogh helping the hosts put on a vastly improved showing.
Perth found a way back into the game thanks to Ota's full-back play, playing a dangerous ball from the left past Keogh to find Bruno Fornaroli in the middle of the box, who let the ball meet his head as he deftly dropped the ball past Mark Birighitti to halve the deficit.
Perth increased their attacking impetus with an equalising goal in mind. A Daniel Stynes air-swing from Castro's solo run and pass into the box caused Glory heads to drop, as the biggest chance for the hosts to equalise slipped by.
Keogh flashed a header from Dane Ingham's cross past the far post before De Silva became a handful down the other end, dispatching two shots just wide of either post in the final ten minutes of play.
Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory
Sunday, March 7 2021
Kick-off: 4.05pm AEDT
Central Coast Mariners v Macarthur FC
Monday, March 8 2021
Central Coast Stadium
Kick-off: 7.05pm AEDT
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