Central Coast conquer Wanderers

Marco Tulio has signed off his time at Central Coast Mariners in style, scoring a brilliant long-range strike to help the reigning Isuzu UTE A-League champions to a hard fought 1-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers at CommBank Stadium.

The Brazilian lined up in Mariners colours for the final time on Saturday evening before he joins J1 League side Kyoto Sanga in Japan and marked his farewell with a brilliant goal in the 25th minute.

Tulio’s strike was his 14th goal in 18 games in all competitions this season, and his 24th and final goal for the club since arriving in Gosford at the start of the 2022-23 season. The 25-year-old attacker was withdrawn in the 71st minute to a strong reception from the travelling Mariners fans.

Central Coast’s defence were able to hold firm in the second-half to come away with the win and send their supporters home happy with three points in tow, as Mark Jackson’s outfit are now unbeaten in their last seven league games and now, sit fourth in the standings, a point behind the third-placed Wanderers.

They will, however, be sweating on the fitness of Alou Kuol, after the striker suffered a leg injury in the second half and was forced to come from the field.

Meanwhile, the Wanderers’ loss has been compounded by two added injuries, with goalkeeper Jack Gibson suffering a leg injury in the warm-up and midfielder Jorrit Hendrix forced off the field with an injury of his own.

They join an absentee list that currently includes Brandon Borrello (foot), Tom Beadling (groin) and Lawrence Thomas (international duty), meaning head coach Marko Rudan may have to shuffle the deck yet again in weeks to come.

Before kick-off, Rudan was forced into an early change when Gibson went down after landing awkwardly when he went to catch a cross, meaning Daniel Margush was drafted into the starting line-up for his first league appearance since May 2022,

Defender Anthony Pantazopoulos was called in to serve as their backup goalkeeper for the evening.

Both sides struggled to gain the ascendancy throughout the opening minutes, as the match fell into an arm wrestle of sorts.

The Mariners fired a warning shot when Storm Roux’s cross led to a collision between Margush and Kuol, but the Wanderers keeper won the foul, despite the nervous moment.

Western Sydney had a couple chances of their own, with Valentino Yuel putting a header straight at Danny Vukovic, after Marcelo led a half-hearted penalty shout earlier in the half when his headed effort struck Brian Kaltak, but referee Alex King was unmoved.

However, the visitors wouldn’t have to wait long after Yuel’s chance to find the opener, as Josh Nisbet played an unmarked Tulio at the edge of the area, who took a touch and fired an unstoppable effort past Margush to open the scoring.

Western Sydney responded well and it was Yuel once again causing issues, as he got in behind the Mariners defence and fired his effort across the face of Vukovic’s goal.

The Wanderers suffered another blow as the first half drew to a close, when Hendrix was unable to continue after suffering a leg injury.

Following the interval, Central Coast sustained an injury of their own after Kuol landed awkwardly when he went up to challenge for a bouncing ball with Margush. The Mariners attacker tried to play on, but minutes later, Jackson withdrew the striker as he was unable to shrug off the injury.

The Wanderers upped the ante during the early stages of the second-half, led by Nicolas Milanovic, who twice came close with long-range strikes.

Back the other way, Tulio wasn’t the only Mariner causing problems, as Angel Torres started to make his presence felt on the contest.

Nisbet’s pressure on Oscar Priestman forced the Wanderers substitute into a mistake on the edge of his own penalty area, with his tackle causing the ball to fall to Torres in a dangerous position. The Colombian then produced a brilliant save from Margush, who got down well to deny the Mariners a second.

Torres wasn’t done, this time turning provider as he burst down the left flank and crossed the ball towards Jing Reec, but the substitute was just unable to slide it past Margush.

As the Wanderers pushed for an equaliser, they left themselves open in transition and the Mariners almost made them pay again. Miguel Di Pizio played a superb ball into the path of Reec, but Margush came rushing out of his box and slid in perfectly to deny the latter.

With time expiring, both Lachlan Brook and Priestman tried their luck to pull one back for the Wanderers, but neither were able to find the all-important goal as the Mariners held firm.