A POWERFUL finish by attacking midfielder Adriano Pellegrino was enough for the Central Coast Mariners to secure a 1-0 victory against Perth Glory at Knox Grammar School, Wahroonga on Sunday.
The former Perth ace struck from close range just before half time, finally breaking the deadlock after Glory custodian Danny Vukovic produced a string of top class saves to deny the Mariners in the first 45.
Having been cut-down by Adam Hughes on the edge of the area, Pellegrino rifled home from six yards after Matt Simon’s strong free kick deflected off the wall and fortuitously into his path.
The Mariners could have gone into the break with a commanding lead hadn’t it been for the cat-like reflexes of former Yellow and Navy shot stopper Vukovic, who denied his former side on numerous occasions throughout the first stanza.
Just before the half hour, Michael Baird latched on to a perfectly weighted cross from Simon. Heading goalwards from two yards, Vukovic reacted sharply to thwart Baird’s effort and keep the scores level.
Minutes later the Glory keeper again acted decisively to deny Baird. Released down the left, Baird fired a powerful strike at goal with Vukovic dropping quickly to again frustrate the Mariners’ number 17.
Ten minutes later Vukovic was again the saviour for Glory, this time diving to his left to foil Simon after the striker’s shot was destined to nestle in the back of the net.
But even an inspired Vukovic couldn’t manage to stop Pellegrino from opening the scoring just before the break. Latching onto Simon’s deflected free kick, Pellegrino made no mistake in scoring what would prove to be the games’ solitary goal.
Both coaches made numerous changes in the second stanza, with Glory mentor Ian Ferguson introducing the likes of Brazilian Andrezinho to his line-up as he switched to a conventional 4-4-2 system.
Mariners boss Graham Arnold also opted to utilise the talent on his bench, handing valuable game time to Daniel McBreen, Adam Kwasnik and Brad Porter.
With the best chance of the second half, Porter fired well over Vukovic’s goal from the edge of the area on 88 minutes after a smart ball from wide on the left found the returning utility.
After the match Arnold said he was satisfied with the Mariners’ play, particularly in the first half.
“Today was a good hit-out for us and I thought in the first half we went exceptionally well,” he said.
“We still have a lot more work to do but again, it was important we got minutes in the legs of a lot of players against a quality opposition like Perth.
“I’m expecting Perth to be a top four side this season. They’ve recruited extremely well and you could see by the players that started the match and also from the players that came on that they’re one of the teams to beat in the league this season.”
Arnold also offered praise for his number 10 Pellegrino, who he believes could provide some telling strikes for the team as the season unfolds.
“I’m expecting a lot of Pellers (Pellegrino),” he said. “He’s the type of player who gets himself in good goal scoring positions, making good late runs into the area. He could get us half a dozen goals this season.