Cheer comes late for Wellington

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Forget signs of the apocalypse – when Dani Sanchez outfoxes Central Coast’s defence in the air, you know it’s the time of Christmas miracles.

At worst, the apocalypse will only be confined to the Mariners’ Westpac Stadium changerooms when Graham Arnold reviews the soft late goal which salvaged a home draw for Wellington.

Phoenix sliced through the Mariners’ defence a couple of times early but, predictably, the visitors’ back four snuffed out the opportunities before creating not just the clearest chance, but also the most bizarre.

As Tom Rogic sprinted through on goal from Daniel McBreen’s guided header in the ninth minute, Mark Paston’s seemingly suicide decision to vacate his area left the ‘keeper well short of beating Rogic to the ball. The classy midfielder, though, hit his first-time shot from beyond thirty yards wide of the open net, sparing Paston of embarrassment.

As they do with the surety of doomsday predictions proving false, the Mariners came out from an even period ahead in the match when Paston could only block Rogic’s hot effort out for the unmarked McBreen to tap his 10th of the season in from six yards, capping a well-worked move on the stroke of half-time.

Rogic and his replacement, striker Mitch Duke, both passed up chances to seal the result for Central Coast as the game ticked towards the final 10 minutes, and they paid an unforeseen price five minutes from full-time.

Wellington’s mobile, Paul Ifill-less front third had been unable to replicate the exuberance of the opening exchanges throughout much of the second half, so perhaps it took a period of muted pressure to finally lull the Mariners defence into a false sense of security.

Substitute Benjamin Totori swung in a dangerous, albeit simple, cross from the left flank towards the penalty spot, from where Dani Sanchez rose from the shadows of a slew of diminutive Spanish midfielders, beat Josh Rose and headed into an empty net, as Mat Ryan had misjudged the cross trajectory.

Three uncharacteristic lapses from Mariners defenders resulted in the goal which costed the league leaders two points and possibly breathed life into a faltering Phoenix campaign.

FULL TIME:
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Totori 85′)
Central Coast Mariners 1 (McBreen 45′)

Crowd: 5,961

WELLINGTON: Paston (GK), Bertos, Sigmund, Durante, Lochhead, Lia, Muscat, Sanchez, Fenton, Brockie, Boyd.
Subs: McMaster (GK), Smith, Totori, Huysegems.

CENTRAL COAST: Ryan (GK), Bojic, Sainsbury, Zwaanswijk, Rose, Montgomery, Hutchinson, Ibini, Rogic, McGlinchey, McBreen.
Subs: Pasfield (GK), Anderson, Sterjovski, Duke.

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