CENTRAL Coast Mariners completed their pre-season campaign with a convincing 3-0 victory over a Tasmanian Select XI in the first ever A-League match in Hobart.
Over 2,000 fans packed the quaint King George Fifth Ground in Hobart's northern suburbs to see end-to-end action from the outset, as first Nik Mrdja had a shot blocked inside 30 seconds, before Tasmanian striker Marcelo Marchioli blazed over after a swift counter attack.
Patricio Perez, in his second start in Mariners colours, very nearly had his maiden goal in the Yellow and Navy, but watched his fierce 20 yard drive hit the top corner of the woodwork ten minutes in.
Daniel McBreen had a shot cleared by a desperate Tasmanian defence and Matthew Lewis pulled the trigger with his first touch from the left channel, but his swerving effort, which appeared on target, was deflected away.
McBreen put a ball through for Mrdja as the visitors continued to press, but Nathan Pitchford was brave in the home side's goal to smother the danger at the feet of the Mariners number 9.
Perez was looking sharper for his hitout against Melbourne Victory two days ago, and showed off some smart footwork before unleashing another long-range drive marginally wide.
Pitchford would prove the hero again on 25 minutes as he brilliantly saved a point blank McBreen header, and Matthew Lewis was again off target from the resultant corner.
McBreen and Mrdja were both the victims of tight offside calls late on in the half, McBreen the more frustrated of the two after nestling the ball inside the back post.
And 44 minutes after their first chance, the hosts had their second as the half drew to a close, but Marchioli couldn't stretch far enough to latch on to a deflected ball into the area.
The Tasmanians started the second half like they finished the first and very nearly had a goal, only for Pedj Bojic to clear off the line after Liam Scott chipped Ryan.
Perez was looking lively and was denied by a brilliant save by replacement 'keeper Sam Kruijver, who had to dive low to his left to get a hand to a fierce drive aimed just inside the near post.
Nik Mrdja hit the crossbar after beating his man just short of the hour and the Mariners looked destined to go without after doing everything but score to that point, and when Adam Kwasnik had a header cleared by the last man with 20 minutes to go it appeared even more likely.
Eventually though the Yellow and Navy cracked the so far resolute Tasmanian defence, as McBreen put a delightful ball through for Matt Simon, who finished sweetly over the advancing 'keeper.
Two minutes later the Mariners had a second, and it was Oliver Bozanic who thoroughly deserved to cap an eye-catching performance down the left flank with a close range finish.
And on the stroke of full time it was 3-0, as Simon returned McBreen's favour minutes earlier with a delightful ball toward the left channel, which the ex Perth Glory and North Queensland marksman in turn delivered to Adam Kwasnik, who headed home from the penalty spot.
The goal completed a dominant performance in the side's final hitout before taking on Melbourne Heart in the opening match of the A-League at AAMI Park on Thursday, August 5.
"It's been a pretty long pre-season and they just want to get started with the A-League," said coach Graham Arnold.
"The first half was very sloppy, but I expected that after Melbourne Victory on Sunday. 48 hours after a game is normally when players are most likely to be flat.
"The last 20 minutes at times I thought we were playing a bit too negative. The ball was going backwards a lot of times when you can play it forward, and I don't mean just lumping it long, but the option in transition is to play short and forward, and to try to catch the opposition on the break."
Patricio Perez looked in some slight discomfort when he exited on 65 minutes, but Arnold allayed any fears the exciting Argentine had any injury concerns.
"He's OK," said Arnold. "We've worked him hard and he played his first game for us against Melbourne the other day for 70 minutes so he pushed himself to the limit there.
"He wanted to play tonight and go as far as he could, it was only a slight cramp. He's fine, and I think he's going to be an exciting player for the A-League."
The Mariners mentor was full of praise for a Tasmanian side which more than held its own against professional opposition.
Arnold added: "They put up a very good show and there are some good young boys there. Overall they can be very proud of their performance."
Tasmania Select XI 0
Central Coast Mariners 3 (Simon 76', Bozanic 80', Kwasnik 90+1')
Central Coast Mariners: 20. Mathew RYAN (GK), 2. Daniel McBREEN, 5. Pedj BOJIC, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 9. Nik MRDJA (23. Adam KWASNIK 69'), 10. Patricio PEREZ (19. Matt SIMON 65'), 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 12. Matthew LEWIS (3. Joshua ROSE 58'), 14. Michael McGLINCHEY (4. Brad PORTER 79'), 18. Alex WILKINSON (C).
Subs Not Used: Nil.
Tasmania Select XI: 1. Nathan PITCHFORD (GK) (1. Sam KRUIJVER (GK) 46'), 2. Jim PENNICOTT, 3. Will ABBOTT, 4. Mark ISELI, 5. Liam SCOTT, 6. Marcello MARCHIOLI (13. Jonathan LO 46'), 7. Andy BRENNAN, 8. Bobby EAVES (12. Tom ROACH 46'), 9. Chris McKENNA (15. Ben HAMLETT 58'), 10. Brayden MANN (14. Daniel BROWN 46'), 11. Kosta KANAKARIS.
Subs Not Used: Nil.
Referee: Lucien LAVERDURE