Central Coast Mariners have burst back into the top six, thumping Wellington Phoenix 4-1 at Westpac Stadium.
After 30 minutes of end to end football with chances for either side, Andrija Kaluderovic met a ball at a Mariners corner and the ball flicked beyond reinstated Lewis Italiano, giving the visitors the lead.
Central Coast made it two early in the second after a cross was turned home by Danne De Silva at the back post. Andrew Hoole smashed home a barnstormer into the top corner to make it 3-0 soon after.
The Phoenix did make their prowess in the air count to score a consolation goal, with Dario Vidosic nodding home from Matt Ridenton’s cross for 3-1.
And that was almost how it finished, until Trent Buhagair put the icing on the cake late on with a goal in the final minute.
Central Coast return to the top six at least temporarily, while the Phoenix still occupy bottom place.
Italiano finally starts for the Nix
Finally, Lewis Italiano, Wellington’s designated No.1 goalkeeper, or so we thought, finally made his first start of the 2017-18 season.
Keegan Smith was usurped after a poor showing against Perth Glory last time out; the 18-year-old schoolkid had kept Italiano out of the team for seven games, just when it seemed Italiano had a clear run at the top gong.
Italiano could do nothing to prevent any of the Mariners’ goals, thugh he may have done better at the opener.
Paul Okon’s team slick from back to front
Central Coast have a team they can be proud of. After years of frustration, the squad is finally playing some high-quality football and getting decent results with terrific talent.
Too often their worst enemies in recent years, this Mariners team has sussed their strategy and passing game so far this season.
At times they completely outplayed the Nix, and they were thoroughly professional throughout. They showed the Phoenix how to pass out from the back and reminded them how to finish.
Wellington’s Perth smashing undone
Paul Okon will be hoping his players can pull together and get more away results like this in the near future. The Phoenix will be ruing the missed opportunity to put together two wins in a row and make Westpac Stadium a fortress.
The Mariners completely outclassed them and they will need to regather quickly and work out how to beat the equally demoralised Melbourne Victory next time out.
For the Mariners, they gain confidence that they can finally mount a sustained push for the play-offs this season.