Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mariners make perfect A-League start

Photos: Alex Wilkinson (left), the Mariners' captain, scored the winning goal, while Patricio Perez (right) did not play because of injury; Graham Arnold, the Mariners' coach, was pleased with his defence [PlessPix]

Central Coast Mariners beat new A-League club Melbourne Heart 1-0 away before a crowd of 11,050 at AAMI Park in Melbourne this evening.

Central defender Alex Wilkinson headed the goal in the 16th minute from John Hutchinson’s corner from the right.

Wilkinson had given Heart ample warning of his intentions when he headed tamely at goal from a corner two minutes earlier, but Michael Marrone failed to mark him tightly at the second set-piece and Heart paid dearly for their slack defending.

Heart had the first chance of the match in just the 3rd minute, but their Brazilian signing, Alex Terra, directed his shot straight at Jess Van Stratten.

Adam Kwasnik should have done better for the Mariners in the 27th minute when he was gifted the ball by Dean Heffernan, but the striker was way off target from the edge of the box despite the fact he was under no pressure.

Heart’s next chance came in the 31st minute following a Heffernan corner from the right, but Michael Beauchamp lifted the ball onto the top of the net from close range.

Heart continued to dominate possession in the second half but, despite a late flurry of chances, failed to find an equaliser.

John Aloisi was injured and did not play for Heart, while new Dutch signing Gerald Sibon showed some neat touches up front.

The Mariners’ Pedj Bojic was shown the first yellow card of the season after just one minute. Team-mates Hutchinson and Matt Simon joined him in referee Beath’s book during the course of the match, as did Heart’s Heffernan and Brendan Hamill.

“Yeah, that was the plan, obviously, to come down here and spoil the party,” said Mariners’ captain, Alex Wilkinson, who was playing his 112th match.

“Luckily enough, we grabbed a goal early from a set-piece in the first half.

“The second half wasn’t at all pretty. We’ve got a lot of work to do in keeping the ball for longer periods of time.

“But, it’s just great to get the first game out of the way and get a win. It’s fantastic for the boys.”

Mariners’ new coach, Graham Arnold, said: “Since I’ve come back from South Africa, we’ve done a lot of work on our defensive structure, so I give them a ten out of ten for that.

“But, I give us about a six-and-a-half for second half keeping of possession. At times, we’re giving the ball away too cheaply and that way Melbourne Heart were able to put pressure on us.”

Patricio Perez was missing for the Mariners after sustaining an injury in the last training session before the match.

Matt Simon was named as man-of-the-match.

“I knew Josip [Skoko] was their play-maker and we had to stop him from playing and Matt Simon did a superb job,” said Arnold.

“I thought he was the best on the park.”

Melbourne Heart’s Dutch coach, John van’t Schip, said: “Well, of course, I’m disappointed with the result.

“There’s still a long competition in front of us. There are still 29 games to play and we’ve said we’ll need a lot of those games to gel with each other.

“We tried to pressure them. We started very well, but after the 1-0 we lost it a little bit. We came back at the end of the first half and we started fresh in the second half and it’s normal that they were sitting back a little bit more so we dominated the game.

“But, even though, they stayed dangerous because on the break they have some dangerous players up front who can hold the ball very good.

“But, there were positive signs.”

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