Phoenix record in sight as Ball shines in win over Mariners before injury exit
Phoenix record in sight as Ball shines in win over Mariners before injury exit
Samuel Green, Michael Flynn
Jan 4, 2020
David Ball starred before limping off as Wellington Phoenix reached the brink of a club record undefeated streak following a 2-1 win against Central Coast Mariners.
The English striker opened up the visitors’ defence as compatriot Gary Hooper stroked Ufuk Talay’s team ahead on 13 minutes and Ball turned goalscorer after some silky footwork on 29 minutes at Sky Stadium.
Luke De Vere’s own goal on the cusp of half-time brought the Mariners hope and the inspirational Ball instantly called for a 52nd-minute substitution after suffering a hip injury.
Hooper made it through 62 minutes on his second start for the club before Central Coast ensured Wellington suffered a nervous finish to get over the line as Danny De Silva and substitute Sammy Silvera threatened late on.
Wellington weathered the storm to close out their fifth win in seven games and make it eighth matches unbeaten, with Talay’s side now one game short of a club record unbeaten run.
The nine-match streak set last season is the only time in their history Wellington have gone undefeated for longer, as Phoenix rise to fourth in the ladder, overtaking Western United and pulling level with third-placed Perth Glory on 18 points.
The Mariners had only a four-day turnaround from their New Year’s Eve defeat against Perth Glory, but Stajcic’s side showed no signs of a hangover when Giancarlo Gallifuoco drilled a 25-yard effort off the top of Wellington’s crossbar in the second minute.
Phoenix showed their clinical edge when Ball’s smart footwork on 13 minutes allowed Tim Payne to break free on the overlap and the Nix right-back sent in a low cross that left Hooper with a simple tap-in to open his Sky Stadium account.
Callum McCowatt found space at the back post but his free header failed to trouble Mark Birighitti on 21 minutes but Ball made his chance count eight minutes later after leaving two defenders on their knees with some nifty footwork, and curling a left-footed shot beyond the Mariners goalkeeper.
The English striker was having a field day, as his 20-yard rifled drive forced Birighitti into a one-handed save, before he flicked Ulises Davila’s low cross a fraction wide of the Mariners near post. But, after Oar’s long-range shot cannoned back off the woodwork, De Vere handed the Mariners a lifeline when he headed Jack Clisby’s delivery into his own net in first-half stoppage time.
Phoenix reclaimed their control in the second half, but plans changed when Ball went down holding his hip and was replaced by Jaushua Sotirio seven minutes after the restart and Brazilian forward Jair threatened with a 62nd-minute header to give Phoenix a fright as the game began to open up.
Davila and Cacace worked Birighitti on the counter, while Stefan Marinovic kept Phoenix in front with a fine save to deny substitute Jordan Murray. The best chance of the half fell to De Silva on 82 minutes but the opportunity flashed before the visitors’ eyes, while Silvera also skewed a late chance wide as the Mariners came up short.
It was a red-hot start for the Mariners and they very nearly took the lead in just the third minute of the contest.
Teed up just outside the penalty area, Giancarlo Gallifuoco let fly with a ferocious first-time strike that proved too good for Stefan Marinovic but ricocheted off the frame of the goal.
Eager to make an impact after being elevated to the starting line-up, Gary Hooper didn't waste any time delivering the Phoenix the lead inside the opening quarter hour.
On the back of a full-field passing passage, David Ball played the run of Tim Payne on the right in behind the Mariners’ line before the All White put it on a platter for Hooper to tuck away at close range.
The goal is his second for the Kiwi club and his first at their home digs.
The Phoenix were looking the more dangerous side and come the 29th minute they doubled their advantage through the wiles of Ball.
With seemingly nowhere to go in a crowded penalty box, the Englishman shook a pair of Mariners defenders before unleashing a low, curling strike into the bottom corner for his second goal in as many games for the Phoenix.
Deep into injury time and the Mariners – who hit the post just minutes earlier through Tommy Oar – finally found a reward, albeit with a little help from the Phoenix defence.
Jack Clisby delivered a dangerous cross from a corner variation that skimmed off the top off the head of Luke De Vere to catch out Marinovic and nestle in the back of the net.
Despite finding themselves behind on the scoreboard the balance shifted in the second stanza as Alen Stajcic rang the changes and the Mariners began to shade the chances.
Substitute Jordan Murray was well positioned to deliver a leveler for the visitors on the back of his classy chest-then-volley, however was foiled by the sharp reactions of Marinovic in the Phoenix goal.
Mariners go down to Perth on NYE in Gosford
A goal either side of half-time and a simple finish from Bruno Fornaroli proved enough for Perth Glory on Tuesday night, as they finished off the decade with a 3-0 win over the Central Coast Mariners.
The Mariners raced out of the blocks looking to build off two home wins, and Danny DeSilva came so close to giving them the lead only for his curling effort to strike the post of Liam Reddy’s goal and bounce away safely inside the opening minute.
Perth began to grow into the half and almost capitalised on a casual pass at the back which was picked up by Diego Castro midway inside the Mariners half.
A deft through ball sent Joel Chianese in on goal however Mark Birighitti was equal to it and blocked well with his back leg to keep the score level.
As the half wore on the conditions were having an effect on both sides with any form of decent football restricted by the heavy winds. The deflation of the famous sauce bottles provided the highlight of a relatively closely fought opening half.
Glory had similar efforts from Lopez and Chianese fizz over the bar from distance however nothing that would have given Mariners coach Alen Stajcic too much to worry about until the visitors took the lead on the stroke of half time.
A corner from the right was half cleared by Dylan Fox to the edge of the box where a lurking Castro met it with a snapshot into the bottom corner.
An immediate retaliation looked hopeful when Sam Silvera unleashed a wicked effort from distance towards the top corner but Liam Reddy was equal to the strike and tipped it past the post.
The visitors doubled their lead quickly after the break, as Joel Chianese headed home James Meredith’s cross at the end of a sweeping move.
A combination of Gordon and Birighitti prevented Central Coast from falling further behind, when Fornaroli found space in the home box, forcing the strike out for a corner which came to nothing.
The Glory extended their lead as the game entered it’s final half hour, when Castro made the most of Ziggy Gordon losing his footing to steal the ball away and tee up Fornaroli to fire home from point blank range.
Substitute Jordan Murray had a glorious chance to pull a goal back but it was not to be as his back post header bounced agonisingly wide of goal; before he helped create another chance when Milan Ðurić scooped the ball over the backline for Eunsun Kim to attempt a spectacular overhead kick which also narrowly missed the goal.
There was no further scoring as the game fizzled out through five minutes of stoppage time, and Alen Stajcic’s side now turn their attentions to a short turnaround as they travel to face the Phoenix in Wellington on Saturday.
Big first half enough for Mariners to see off Reds
The Mariners moved off the bottom of the table on Saturday, as two first half goals and a big defensive effort helped them to a 2-1 win over Adelaide United at Central Coast Stadium.
A rare strike from Kye Rowles and a trademark long-range effort from Milan Milan Ðurić had the Mariners up by two goals before Ben Halloran’s curler made for some nervous moments as the Mariners held on for almost 45 minutes.
Alen Stajcic made a number of changes to the side that lost narrowly to Sydney last weekend, with Tommy Oar, Lewis Miller and Jordan Murray all back into the starting lineup.
The hosts began at a ferocious pace on the hunt for an opener and after Jair and Jordan Murray almost worked an opening in the second minute the Yellow & Navy went ahead after four.
A neatly worked free kick routine from the left side saw Ðurić feed skipper Oar down the wing. His looping back post cross was knocked across goal by Jordan Murray and in the defensive uncertainty Gianni Stensness worked the ball to Rowles.
The young centre back met the ball as it dropped from the air and fired into the bottom corner to give the Mariners an early lead.
Despite their bye in the previous week Adelaide looked lethargic as the half progressed and were a slip away from falling further behind when Murray back heeled to DeSilva on the edge of the box.
As the winger teed up to shoot his footing gave way and he fell to the ground allowing the visitors to close him down before his second effort was flicked past the post by Isaac Richards.
The Mariners looked the only side likely of scoring in the opening exchanges and following on from another neatly worked free kick routine it looked as if a second was on its way; with Ðurić loading up from distance only to fire wide.
The Reds began to get up to speed and had a couple of half chances with the best falling to Halloran but Mark Birighitti was equal to the effort and was quick to get down and push the ball away from danger.
Minutes before half-time though the Mariners extended the lead as Ðurić collected outside the area, cut inside one player and fired an unstoppable strike into the bottom left corner giving the keeper no chance and grabbing his fourth goal of the campaign.
The deficit was halved within a minute of the restart via a fantastic strike from Halloran as Nathan Konstandopolos released him down the right wing.
The winger took two touches before cutting inside and unleashing a rocket into the top left corner past a stranded Birighitti and cutting the noise at Central Coast Stadium.
Despite the initial shock of the goal the Mariners remained assured in possession and home debutant Jair was unlucky not to grab his first A-League goal in 11 months when Oar’s cross found the Brazilian at the back post, only for it to be forced wide.
Danny DeSilva tried a cheeky effort that ended up on the roof of the net as the Mariners looked to push their advantage back out to two goals, but they held on against a fast finishing Adelaide side to record their third win of the season.
The result lifts the Mariners to ninth spot on the table, and is a big boost ahead of the New Years Eve clash with Perth Glory next round.
Mariners foiled by early Sydney strike
Mariners foiled by early Sydney strike
The Central Coast Mariners returned to action after the bye on Saturday night, but fell to a loss at the hands of Sydney FC as Kosta Barbarouses’ early strike proved to be the difference.
Mariners coach Alen Stajcic made three changes to the visitors with Eunsun Kim captaining the side in place of Tommy Oar and top scorer Milan Ðurić returning fit to start after two weeks on the bench. New signing Jair made his full debut for the Yellow & Navy coming in up top in place of Matt Simon.
The Mariners enjoyed a strong spell of possession early, but were brought undone as Rhyan Grant got in behind from a quick free-kick, and his cross found Barbarouses with time and space to finish.
The visitors pushed back immediately and were denied a quick response by a diving savefrom Andrew Redmayne. A free kick from the left was half cleared to Danny DeSilva on the edge of the area, however the Mariners winger saw his rising volley acrobatically tipped over by the home goalkeeper.
As the half wore on neither side came too close to adding to the scoreline with the majority of the play in the middle third of the pitch, and Mariners’ debutant Jair looked lively and had a few good touches as he settled in to his first start with the club.
Moments before half time the scores were almost level. A neat interception by Giancarlo Gallifuoco saw possession worked out wide to Sammy Silvera on the right. With time and space the youngster crossed into the home box for Jair to meet low with a flicked header but it flew agonisingly wide past the post.
The second half began with the Mariners determined to put up a fight and forced a free kick 25 yards out when DeSilva was brought down cynically by Luke Brattan. Ðurić stepped up to strike however his dipping effort was smothered by Redmayne; denying the Serbian his fourth goal this season.
With half an hour remaining Sydney pressed forward searching for the elusive second goal that would put the game to bed. A splitting ball from midfielder Alexander Baumjohann found Milos Ninkovic through on goal but he fired wide while under pressure from Ziggy Gordon.
Stajcic made changes, and youngster Dylan Ruiz-Diaz came on alongside Matt Simon after 72 minutes for Jair and Ðurić as the Mariners continued to push the hosts for an equaliser.
The hosts held on despite the best efforts of the Mariners’ attack with Redmayne the hero saving a goal bound Giancarlo Gallifuoco header from point blank at the death and in the process securing the three points for the Sky Blues.
Attentions now turn to next Sunday, with a big home clash against Adelaide United. Get your tickets for that game now!
While you're here, you may wish to take the time to support former Mariner Andrew Gumprecht and his wife Carina, who has been diagnosed with Cancer. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help assist them through this time. Click here to support their family.
Gumprecht made 63 appearances for the Mariners across four seasons, scoring three goals.
Gianni Stensness signs two-year extension with Mariners
Dynamic young midfielder Gianni Stensness has committed to the Central Coast Mariners, signing a contract extension keeping him at the club until 2022 after a strong start to the season.
Stensness joined the Mariners on a one-year contract in August this year, and the new deal will keep him with the Club through the Hyundai A-League 2020/21 and 2021/22 seasons.
Speaking after inking his new deal, the 20-year old thanked the club for putting faith in him as a young player.
“I’m very happy to have extended my time with the Mariners,” Stensness said.
“It has been a great few months since joining the Club which has encouraged me to extend.”
“The club has believed in me, and I’ve thrived off that, and I want to continue to be in that positive environment.”
Prior to his time with the Wellington Phoenix Stensness was a part of the Mariners’ Academy setup, and said his extension owes to his time as a young footballer working with the club.
“It’s special for me to extend my contract with a club that played a significant role in my development,” he said.
“I want to give back to the club not only for their recent support and belief in me, but also for my time in the youth ranks here.”
“I look forward to further growing as a player here and doing my part to grow the team, get results, and strive to get this club back to its former glory.”
“It’s a particularly positive environment that Staj has encouraged and fostered, he believes in young players, and wants a fit, energetic playing group.”
Stensness has represented New Zealand in under-age squads and helped his country qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at a tournament earlier this season.
Mariners Head Coach Alen Stajcic praised the impact of Stensness so far this season, and pointed to the Mariners’ Academy for its role in his development.
“As a Club we’re very excited to have extended Gianni, and having come on trial a few months ago to now being an integral part of our starting XI it’s clear he has a bright future here,” Stajcic said.
“The Central Coast Mariners Academy provided a launching pad for Gianni earlier in his career, and it’s great to see another young player shining on the professional stage after being given a chance here.”
Stensness has started in all seven of the Mariners’ Hyundai A-League matches so far in the middle of the park, helping to break up opponent’s attacks with a tackle success rate of over 60%, and getting the Mariners moving towards goal with his accurate distribution and forward running.