The Wellington Phoenix have made it 13 games undefeated after claiming a 2-1 win over Central Coast Mariners at Wollongong’s WIN Stadium.
The victory was the Phoenix’s first of the A-League Men’s season and came after an onslaught from the Mariners in the first half.
The Phoenix weathered the storm and sparked into life when Gary Hooper scored from a corner just after the break.
Central Coast responded just four minutes later through Marco Urena, but a 63rd-minute effort from Jaushua Sotirio put Wellington back in control.
Wellington’s Ben Waine missed a penalty in the 85th minute which would have put the game beyond doubt after debating with Reno Piscopo over who would take it.
Thankfully for Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay, it didn’t matter as his side repelled a late test from the Mariners to claim their first win of the season at their home away from home.
“Whoever felt confident,” Talay said when asked who should’ve taken the penalty with Hooper substituted.
“Waino felt very confident. Reno wanted to step up and Waino stood his ground. That happens in football, you miss penalties.
“Next time he steps up he knows he has to put it in the back end of the net.
“If Hoops was still on, I’m sure he would’ve taken it.”
The Mariners started the brighter of the two sides but were unable to make their dominance count with Storm Roux and Josh Nisbet causing problems down Wellington’s left.
Long-range efforts from Oliver Bozanic were all they could come up with and Hooper made the Mariners pay when Kye Rowles failed to clear a Phoenix corner in the 48th minute.
The Englishman was on hand to bundle past Mark Birighitti, who had fallen to the turf, with the goal being awarded after a lengthy VAR check.
The Phoenix’s lead lasted just four minutes with Joshua Laws unable to control a long ball over the top with Urena popping up to bury past Oliver Sail.
Try as they might, Central Coast came up short and Wellington went up the other end with Sotirio finishing from the edge of the box as the ball ricocheted off the legs of Jacob Farrell past Birighitti.
Bozanic and substitute Matthew Hatch tried to pull the Mariners back level but the Phoenix had the chance to wrap up the three points when Rowles felled Ben Old in the box.
“It was disappointing to lose the game in tricky conditions with the wind,” said Mariners coach Nick Montgomery.
“I feel we could have gone on and got a second but it was sloppy for us to concede a second goal.
“We kept going and we were unlucky not to get back into the game.”
With Hooper off the field, Piscopo and Waine disputed who would take the penalty but the latter prevailed and was unable to convert as Birighitti saved to his right.