Football: Wellington Phoenix overcome odds to conquer Mariners

By Niall Anderson

Wellington Phoenix 2 Central Coast Mariners 0
Roy Krishna of the Phoenix takes the ball past Michael Neill and Paul Izzo of the Mariners on his way to scoring a goal. Photo / Getty
Roy Krishna of the Phoenix takes the ball past Michael Neill and Paul Izzo of the Mariners on his way to scoring a goal. Photo / Getty

The Wellington Phoenix have overcome a slew of absences to claim their first away win of the season, toppling the Central Coast Mariners 2-0 in Canberra.

Second half goals to Roy Krishna and Hamish Watson sealed a second straight victory for the Phoenix, who now move into seventh on the A-League ladder.

The victory also saw Ernie Merrick become the first coach in A-League history to reach 100 wins, and considering the circumstances, the win can go down as one of the more impressive of Merrick's Phoenix tenure.

Not for the first time this season, the Phoenix were left short-handed without their sizeable All Whites contingent, due to Football Federation Australia refusing to break for international windows.

Only once before in nine games had the Phoenix won during an international window, and had Andrew Durante, Louis Fenton, Glen Moss, Kosta Barbarouses and the injured Michael McGlinchey all missing due to their international clash against New Caledonia.

Adding to the odds against the Phoenix was their woeful record on the road, having won just two of their last 15 games away from home, and just three of their last 17 overall against Central Coast.

Scoring against the Mariners hasn't been a problem for any team recently, with Central Coast having gone a staggering 34 straight games without a clean sheet. However, considering only Krishna had scored for the Phoenix in their first five games, there would have been concerns when the score was deadlocked at the half.

Both sides were struggling coming into the game, having picked up their respective first wins the week before, and only being trailed by Adelaide United in the standings.

The Phoenix were undoubtedly the more dangerous side in the first half, but were stymied by some fine saves from Mariners custodian Paul Izzo. Watson had the best early chance, weaving inside the Central Coast area only to have his shot smothered by Izzo, who minutes later had to deal with a Krishna strike at his near post. He added to his acrobatics by stopping a rasping Roly Bonevacia effort, while a Gui Finkler free-kick ricocheted off the post.

The Mariners' defensive stability ended shortly after halftime. Watson put a quality ball in behind the defence, and although Krishna's first touch past the keeper was poor, his speed got him in position to bundle home a tidy finish from a tight angle.

Seven minutes later, the pair also linked up for the second goal. After Finkler had played Krishna through, he drew out Izzo and squared it to Watson who had the easiest of tap-ins to double the lead.

The Mariners still posed some threats, but the Phoenix defended smartly. The inexperienced duo of Ryan Lowry and Matt Ridenton were especially sound, and Lewis Italiano pitched in with a superb save to make it back-to-back clean sheets for the gradually developing Phoenix.

Wellington Phoenix 2 (R. Krishna, H.Watson)
Central Coast Mariners 0
Halftime: 0-0

- NZ Herald

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