Ulises Davila of the Phoenix and Tommy Oar of the Mariners battle for possession. Photo / Hagen Hopkins (Getty Images)
The Wellington Phoenix may have eight matches in a row without a loss, but their 2-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners did give the coaching staff cause for worry as the A-League heads into its business end.
Striker David Ball had to leave the game early in the second half with a hip injury, after having a stunning day at Sky Stadium in Wellington. The Englishman had scored the second goal and was causing the Mariners plenty of headaches, but limped from the field and is in doubt for the Phoenix’s upcoming games.
In bright sunshine in front of a big crowd, Gary Hooper gave the Phoenix the early lead. Ball threaded a lovely pass through some traffic to a wide-open Tim Paine, who then crossed the ball back into an unmarked Hooper to tap in directly in front of goal.
Then Ball did it all himself in the 29th minute, turning the Mariners' defence inside out before firing off a left-footed shot that went low and beat keeper Mark Birghitti to make the score 2-0.
The Phoenix then scored the third goal as well, unfortunately, it was in the wrong net. Luke De Vere handed the Mariners a lifeline when he headed Jack Clisby’s delivery into the Phoenix’s goal in first-half stoppage time.
The Phoenix reclaimed their control in the second half, but plans changed when Ball left the pitch, replaced by Jaushua Sotirio. The Mariners’ Brazilian forward Jair threatened with a 62nd-minute header as the game began to open up.
Keeper Stefan Marinovic kept the Phoenix in front with a fine save to deny substitute Jordan Murray. The best chance of the half fell to the Mariners’ Danny De Silva on 82 minutes but the opportunity flashed before the visitors’ eyes, while Sammy Silvera also skewed a late chance wide as the visitors came up short.
Despite Ball’s injury, the win sees the Phoenix rise to fourth in the ladder, overtaking Western United and pulling level with third-placed Perth Glory on 18 points.
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Gary Hooper 13', David Ball 29')
Central Coast Mariners (Luke DeVere own goal 45+1')