A late goal from substitute Nicolai Muller has handed Western Sydney Wanderers a 1-0 win over Central Coast Mariners in a fiery clash in Gosford on Tuesday night.
In a game of few chances but plenty of spice, Muller struck the decisive blow seven minutes from time to inflict the first defeat of the season on the Mariners.
The win for Carl Robinson’s side has seen them jump to the top of the A-League ladder on goal difference on the back of a three-game unbeaten run.
It was a contest that could have gone either way, with Mariners midfielder Joshua Nisbet hitting the crossbar with a strike early in the second half.
The late goal came at the end of an entertaining and – at times – fiery contest.
Mariners skipper Matt Simon was involved in a couple of flash points in the first half, while Wanderers defender Ziggy Gordon was public enemy no.1 with the Central Coast fans against his former club.
But Gordon and the Wanderers had the last laugh with a gritty win to move to the A-League summit.
Cox goes close for Wanderers
It was an all-action start with both sides pressing for an opening goal but it was the visitors that went the closest inside 10 minutes.
And it was the imports that combined as Graham Dorrans’ free-kick picked out Simon Cox who couldn’t keep his header down.
Simon denied by Margush magnificence
It took just a few more minutes for the Mariners to carve out their best chance of the opening half.
Jack Clisby floated in a cross from the left with Mariners skipper Matt Simon rising highest to get a header towards goal.
Simon’s towering effort was floating towards the top corner but Wanderers gloveman Daniel Margush showed great agility to claw the ball away for a corner.
Troisi can’t find a way past Birighitti
It was the Wanderers that started the second half the stronger and they almost broke the deadlock soon after the interval.
Cox was again involved, showing great awareness to chest down a lofted pass into the path of James Troisi, but the playmaker’s shot from the edge of the box was straight at the Mariners shot-stopper.
Nisbet rattles the woodwork
While Troisi’s chance was a good one, the Mariners went even closer to grabbing the opener just after the hour mark.
The excellent Nisbet wriggled free of a couple of defenders before spotting the run of Daniel De Silva who drove into the box.
De Silva returned the ball to Nisbet in the middle and while the diminutive midfielder scuffed his first effort, he got a better connection to his second attempt which cannoned onto the crossbar.
Substitutes combine for Wanderers
Just as it looked as neither side would be able to find a breakthrough, the Wanderers delivered a decisive blow on 83 minutes.
And it was a couple of substitutes that were the instigators as the Mariners defence allowed a long ball over the top to bounce inside their penalty area.
Kwame Yeboah’s powerful shot was deflected into the path of Muller who made no mistake with an assured finish much to the delight of the away fans.