The Central Coast Mariners claimed their first home win of the Hyundai A-League season on Sunday night, with a strong defensive effort keeping out Western United and ending a run of 38 games without a clean sheet.
Milan Duric started on the bench while Kye Rowles and Danny DeSilva returned to the lineup, and Lewis Miller and Eunsun Kim came into the side for their starting league debuts.
The game began at a tentative pace with neither side creating a clear cut opening in the first 20 minutes. Filip Kurto had to look lively to race off his line to prevent Tommy Oar latching onto a long ball from defence and on 25 minutes Mark Birighitti was forced into a spectacular save to prevent Dario Jertec putting Western United ahead.
From the resulting corner Ziggy Gordon blocked Andrew Durante’s header on the line as the Mariners fought to keep Western at bay and not long after Birighitti again made a spectacular save, this time to keep out a stinging free-kick from Alessandro Diamanti.
Link-up play from Diamanti and Besart Berisha helped create space for a pass to Panagiotis Kone at the back post but with plenty of space he smashed his effort well over the goal and the teams went in equal at the break.
The break came at the right time for the hosts and after forcing the ball into the Western United half after the restart they took the lead in the 49th minute.
A cross from the left was half cleared by Andrew Calver to Giancarlo Gallifuocco on the edge of the box and his first time strike was deflected past Kurto and in, handing the midfielder his first Hyundai A-League goal and the Mariners their 500th.
United almost pulled a goal back moments later when Appiah found himself with room down the right wing to cross for Berisha but he fired wide with the goal begging.
The visitors continued to push for the equaliser however found a resolute Mariners defence in fine form with Miller slotting in perfectly at right back to the joy of the home faithful.
Not content with their one goal advantage the Mariners pushed for a second to give them a little breathing space but were denied by a superb diving save by Kurto again as he took flight to keep out Jack Clisby’s curling effort from the top of the box.
United had a chance to steal a point in the last five minutes after Diamanti won the ball back on the edge of the box but once again the Italian could not find the net, flashing a right footed strike wide of the post.
The win sees the Mariners climb to sixth in the table, just a win behind Western United and preparations begin for next week’s trip to take on Brisbane in round eight.