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Phoenix too sharp for Mariners in A-League

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 10/12/2016 Cathy Walshe

Wellington have begun the post-Ernie Merrick era with a sparkling 3-0 A-League win over Central Coast in Hamilton.

Merrick resigned on Monday, with the Phoenix sitting bottom of the ladder with just two wins from eight starts.

Interim coach Chris Greenacre said after the game the week following Merrick's resignation had been difficult.

"We've been through every kind of emotion. For us he was the perfect mentor," he said.

"We probably couldn't have done it this week without him, and we're saddened. But in football, the games come thick and fast, and you've got to move on.

"The boys put in a performance tonight and they deserve the win."

An early Kosta Barbarouses goal gave Wellington the best possible start, while veteran midfielder Vince Lia and Fijian striker Roy Krishna wrapped up the game with two superb second-half finishes.

Barbarouses took less than two minutes to score his first goal for the Phoenix, latching onto a sweet through ball from Krishna and ghosting through the Mariners' suddenly threadbare defence.

His crashing strike from just outside the box looked to take a slight deflection off Hamish Watson, leaving keeper Ivan Necevski - back for the first time since round two - no chance.

The Mariners battled back but struggled for traction in the midfield in the absence of Mickael Tavares, sidelined with an ankle injury, and skipper Nick Montgomery (hamstring).

Youngsters Liam Rose and Adam Berry worked hard but, although the Mariners secured plenty of possession, they rarely threatened in the front third.

The Phoenix continued to dictate terms in the second half, with the Mariners' defence missing stand-in skipper Storm Roux after injury forced the All Whites defender from the field late in the first spell.

Wellington ramped up the pressure with a series of free kicks as the hour mark ticked over, and Lia's rocket from just outside the box crashed into the top-left corner for his fourth goal in 10 years for the Phoenix.

The game was already secured, but Wellington finished on a high note when Krishna scored his sixth goal of the season from a 94th-minute counter-attack sparked by a superb Barbarouses through ball.

Mariners coach Paul Okon refused to blame his team's inexperience for the loss.

"It's certainly not an excuse - I don't think experience was the reason why we conceded after 90 seconds.

"it just makes it difficult if you're going to do that, and we keep doing it.

"I think for 60 minutes we were quite good, probably the better side. We dominated without really threatening.

"We fought hard, we tried hard but we go home with no points."

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