Second-half excitement leads to a gritty win for Wellington Phoenix

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On a windy evening at WIN Stadium, it was all about the second half as Wellington Phoenix came away with all three points against a tough Central Coast Mariners side.

It was a flurry of goals during a 20-minute a period that brought this game alive. Gary Hooper, Marco Urena and Jaushua Sotirio all found the back of the net during the second 45 minutes.

In what was one of the most exciting matches of the season so far it was the Nix who held on for a hard-fought win.

There were just a few chances during the first 45, however, both keepers did need to get involved as the two sides used patient build-up to create some rare shots on goal.

Hooper had a go in the fifth minute as he took a shot from outside the box after creating some space off the dribble but Mark Birighitti made a great save after the ball took a deflection off a defender.

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It was Central Coast’s turn next as Ureña forced Phoenix keeper Oliver Sail to make a diving save in the 13th minute.

As the first half ticked along it was Central Coast who looked the better of the two sides, creating two more shots on target that were again both saved by Sail.

In-form keepers and only five shots combined on target lead to both sides heading into the break with the same score as when they had started.

Set piece magic helped the Phoenix take a 1-0 lead in the second half as Hooper scored off a corner – a corner that was forced after a brilliant Ren0 Piscopo free-kick that was just saved by Birighitti.

The corners flew in to the box and soon bounced around like a ping pong ball before it found Hooper’s boot. The Englishman did what he does best and found the back of the net.

As per usual, VAR had to give everything a quick look but the goal was soon officially awarded as the second half got off with a bang.

Just moments later a horrendous defensive mistake by Joshua Laws meant that Ureña was gifted a one-on-one with Sail and just as you’d expect the Costa Rican quickly evened the score.

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Both Ureña and Sail weren’t done yet as the Mariners forward was denied his second by the Nix keeper, who made a brilliant save diving to his left in the 59th minute.

However, this second half still had more to give as Sotirio gave the Nix back the lead just a few minutes later thanks to a heap of skill and a little bit of luck.

While working with the ball inside the box Sotirio’s shot took the slightest deflection as it flew between the legs of defender Jacob Farrell. This deflection left Birighitti flat-footed and after another deflection, this time off the post the Nix were back in front with 63 minutes gone.

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The Phoenix had a chance to put the game beyond reach when a penalty was awarded in the 84th minute after substitution Ben Old was taken down in the box. But much to his disappointment, Ben Waine was denied by Birighitti, who made a brilliant diving save to keep his team in the match.

An extraordinary second half finished with a defensive stand for Wellington as Central Coast came at them in an attempt to even the score.

The impressive Nix were able to hold on and take a well-earned three points and continue their undefeated streak which now stands at 13.

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Wellington Phoenix: 2 (Hooper 48′ Sotirio 63′ W)
Central Coast Mariners: 1 (Urena 52′) 

Stadium: WIN Stadium

Referee: Jack Morgan
Assistant Referees: Owen Goldrick, Kearney Robinson
Fourth Offical: Alex King

Wellington Phoenix: Oliver SAIL (GK), Callan ELLOIT (Louis FENTON 75′), Tim PAYNE, Joshua LAWS, James MCGARRY, Alex RUFER (C) (Nicholas PENNINGTON 63′), Clayton LEWIS, David BALL, Reno PISCOPO (Matthew BOZINOVSKI 87′), Gary HOOPER (Ben WAINE 63′), Jaushua SOTIRIO (Ben OLD 75′)

Unused subs: Alex PAULSEN (GK), Luka PRSO

Central Coast Mariners: Mark BIRIGHITTI (GK), Jacob FARRELL, Kye ROWLES, Ruon TONGYIK (Daniel HALL 87′), Storm ROUX (Lewis MILLER 57′), Josh NISBET, Cy GODDARD (Matt HATCH 69′), Oliver BOZANIC (C), Max BALARD (Harrison STEELE 69′), Damian TSEKENIS (Matheus MORESCHE 57′), Marco URENA

Unused subs: Yaren SOZER (GK), Noah SMITH,

Feature image credit: Cameron Mclntosh

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Harry Bartle
Harry is a young Journalist based in Wellington. He will be covering the Wellington Phoenix during the 2021/22 season for the Football Sack and has a love hate relationship with Ulises Davila

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