The Central Coast Mariners have been doing everything right in the off-season, and deserve a shot at the A-League title. Coach Alen Stajcic has recruited players specifically with experience and pitch authority.
Wellington Phoenix have taken a step towards rediscovering last season’s winning momentum with a hard-fought 1-0 FFA Cup victory over Central Coast Mariners, while Perth Glory and Western Sydney Wanderers also advanced to the last 16 on Tuesday.
The final matchday in the round resulted in the elimination of Newcastle Jets who were toppled on penalties by the Glory, while Brisbane Roar suffered a 1-0 loss to the Wanderers.
It was a tale of two goalkeepers in Gosford as Phoenix edged out a new-look Mariners side with a lone first-half goal from Kwabena Appiah. The former Wanderers attacker took just 20 minutes to score on debut for his new club after dispossessing Mariners goalkeeper Paul Izzo who hesitated after receiving a routine backpass.
At the other end of the field Phoenix keeper Glen Moss made several key saves, while the Mariners spurned a late opportunity as former English Premier League striker Roy O’Donovan crashed a penalty against the frame of the goal.
Newcastle Jets seemed set for a perfect start under new coach Scott Miller until the Glory’s Sidnei Sciola equalised with a close-range header three minutes from the end to push the game into extra time.
And the visiting Perth took the lead for the first time just two minutes after the restart in Broadmeadow as Nebojsa Marinkovic, who set up Sciola’s goal, coolly netted from the penalty spot.
Newcastle had earlier taken a first-half lead through a typically sweet David Carney strike, with the former Socceroo playing his first match since January after being exiled from the squad under former coach Phil Stubbins.
The Jets also had a Labinot Haliti goal chalked off for a controversial offside. However, Haliti eventually got on the scoresheet drawing the Jets level in the dying minutes of extra time to force penalties where Glory goalkeeper Jerrad Tyson made three saves to help last year’s cup finalists advance.
At Penrith in western Sydney the Wanderers overcame a slow first half showing to prevail against Brisbane.
Golgol Mebrahtu netted the only goal of the game with 20 minutes remaining, and Mark Bridge could have extended the winning margin but his late penalty was saved by Roar goalkeeper Jamie Young.
The final match of the evening saw Melbourne-based Oakleigh Cannons edge out Far North Queensland 5-4 on penalties, following a 1-1 draw.
Jamie Gosling equalised with a speculative long-range effort in the final minute for the Queenslanders after Jamie Piemonte had scored with a stunning strike early during extra time.