A goal in either half for Melbourne City saw the Mariners fall to a 2-0 defeat against the competition’s form team at AAMI Park on Monday night.
Jamie Maclaren and Nathaniel Atkinson scored for the hosts as City won their fifth game in a row in the A-League.
Alen Stajcic handed Max Balard a starting debut alongside Oliver Bozanic in midfield, with Daniel Bouman moving to the bench after Gianni Stensness did not travel with the side to Melbourne.
The game started evenly and an early free-kick was curled over by Bozanic, while down the other end City had chances through Maclaren and Griffiths but could not find the target, and the hosts were forced into an early change as Nuno Reis was replaced by Adrian Luna.
It took 31 minutes though for City to find the opener, and it was Maclaren who made the Mariners pay as he was left unmarked to side foot a finish past the excellent Mark Birighitti at the end of a well worked team move.
A flurry of chances followed but Birighitti was up to the task, making superb saves from Maclaren and Luna to keep the Mariners in the game, before Danny DeSilva was set up by Matt Simon moments before the break but could not put his effort on target.
Balard was replaced by Michal Janota at half-time and the Polish midfielder looked to get the Mariners back into the game, and Josh Nisbet moved back into Balard’s role alongside Bozanic.
11 minutes into the half though City doubled their lead; Andrew Nabbout’s initial strike was well blocked by Ruon Tongyik but the rebound fell kindly to Atkinson whose effort just beat Birighitti and nestled in the far corner for City’s second.
Another double save from Birighitti minutes later continued his strong performance, before Stajcic made a double change, bringing on Alou Kuol and Bouman with 23 minutes to play.
Dan Hall replaced Stefan Nigro with 13 minutes left as the Mariners pushed for a way back into the game, and almost had it in the 81st minutes.
Kuol appeared to be clattered into by Connor Metcalfe inside the area however play on was waved, and despite a lengthy VAR review claims of a penalty were waved away and City escaped the danger.
City still looked dangerous in transition but the Mariners held firm late while looking to create chances of their own, and the match finished with City as two goal victors.
The Mariners will return to the Coast on Tuesday, before beginning preparations for a big match back at Central Coast Stadium against Melbourne Victory on Saturday night!