Phoenix win a close one

Wellington Phoenix claimed a dogged 1-0 victory over the Central Coast Mariners in a tight one at Westpac Stadium on Friday night.

Wellington Phoenix claimed a dogged 1-0 victory over the Central Coast Mariners in a tight one at Westpac Stadium on Friday night.

The game had a frenetic opening, with both teams knowing that only a win would see them take a realistic step closer to a coveted top four spot.

The Phoenix came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders, and their aggressive approach immediately paid dividends.

Leo Bertos made a break down the right wing, and found himself with plenty of space to cross. His superb delivery was pin-point accurate, and found the head of Shane Smetlz who placed his header deftly into the far corner to open the scoring in only the second minute.

The Phoenix were buoyed by the early goal, and came close to a second goal in the sixth minute.

Bertos was again the architect, with a smart run from inside his own half creating enough space for him to shoot from 25 yards out. However, his effort drifted wide of the right hand upright.

As the half progressed, the Mariners began to get more involved in the play and had their first real opportunity on 26 minutes, with Mile Jedinak pulling the strings for the visitors.

His cultured ball over the top opened a huge hole inside the Phoenix goal box and found John Hutchinson who headed the ball back across the goal mouth, Adrian Caceres rushed in, and only a brave block by Phoenix ‘keeper Glen Moss prevented the visitors from drawing level.

Central Coast asserted themselves on the match the longer it went on, and were unlucky to go into the break a goal down.

On 56 minutes the Mariners had a glorious opportunity to open their account with Jedinak posing an ever-present danger.

His attempted shot was blocked by a solid Moss save, and Caceres- follow-up strike was blocked on the line by Andrew Durante after Moss was beaten.

The Mariners pressed again four minutes later, with Jedinak testing Moss again with a solid shot on the turn. Moss- legs saved the day on this occasion, with Hutchinson-s shot from the rebound being deflected wide.

The Mariners piled on the pressure and laid siege to the Phoenix goal for long periods, but the home side was resolute and frustrated the visitors.

The Phoenix counter attacked when they could, and it almost gave Smeltz his second of the match on 78 minutes.

Another incisive run from the impressive Bertos found the home side deep inside Mariners territory and his cross was superbly dummied by Tim Brown, allowing Smeltz space to hit his shot from the edge of the box. His effort drifted agonizingly wide, and prevented the Phoenix from wrapping up the match.

Sasho Petrovski had a good chance to square the game up for the Mariners in the 86th minute, following a concerted period of Central Coast pressure. His header only narrowly cleared the crossbar, much to the relief of the Phoenix backline.

The home side managed to absorb the pressure and hold out for a gutsy win, which well and truly keeps their finals chances alive. Central Coast will feel disappointed, as despite being the better side for the majority of the match, it was unable to turn its dominance into goals.

Wellington Phoenix 1
(Smeltz 2)

Central Coast Mariners 0