CENTRAL Coast Mariners defeated Wellington Phoenix 2-0 in Tauranga on Sunday to maintain their unbeaten pre-season run leading into season seven of the A-League.
Goals to towering Dutch defender Patrick Zwaanswijk and emerging young striker Bernie Ibini-Isei won the day for the Mariners in front of approximately 3,000 fans at Tauranga’s Bay Park complex.
Zwaanswijk opened the scoring just five minutes from half-time when he met Oliver Bozanic’s sweetly taken corner to head past Mark Paston in the Phoenix goal.
On 79 minutes, Ibini-Isei doubled the Yellow and Navy’s advantage with a strong finish from close range.
Central Coast had the better of the chances throughout the match with Qantas Olyroos captain Bozanic, as well as former Phoenix player Troy Hearfield and new recruit Adriano Pellegrino going especially close to adding to the scoreline.
Chris Greenacre and Tim Brown had the best of the opportunities for the Kiwi side, however their efforts failed to beat goalkeeper Mathew Ryan who was largely untroubled on his return to the Mariners starting eleven.
Both Graham Arnold and Ricki Herbert took the opportunity to shuffle their packs in the second stanza, adding valuable, high intensity game time to the legs of their players.
“For us, the result is not important,” Arnold said post match. “This was a good, structured performance by the side and that’s what matters most.
“Today we welcomed back three young players to the team [Ryan, Ibini-Isei and Trent Sainsbury]. Mustafa Amini is not ready yet, but it was good to have those three players back in the team as well as the likes of Brad Porter on the pitch after half-time.
“Again, this was another opportunity for us to get minutes in the legs of our squad against a good quality oppositions in testing conditions.”
Central Coast's next game is against 2011 O-League Champions, Auckland City, on Wednesday 28 September.
The team will then return home to finalise their preparations for the 2011/12 Hyundai A-League season, which commences on Saturday 8 October against Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium.
Wellington Phoenix – 0
Central Coast Mariners – 2
Bay Park, Tauranga, New Zealand