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Wellington Phoenix too sharp for Central Coast Mariners in A-League

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 10/12/2016 Cathy Walshe

Wellington Phoenix celebrate a goal to Guilherme Finkler (C) during the round 10 A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and the Central Coast Mariners. © Phil Walter/Getty Images Wellington Phoenix celebrate a goal to Guilherme Finkler (C) during the round 10 A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and the Central Coast Mariners. 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, the Phoenix sitting bottom of the ladder with just two wins from eight starts.

Skipper Andrew Durante said the players had let Merrick down with a lacklustre start to the season, and needed to make amends on Saturday for interim coaches Chris Greenacre and Des Buckingham.

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

Barbarouses took just 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, Connor Pain proving troublesome down the left with Phoenix right back Jacob Tratt kept busy tracking the 23-year-old winger.

But in the absence of Mickael Tavares, sidelined with an ankle injury, and skipper Nick Montgomery (hamstring), Central Coast struggled for traction in the midfield.

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

Watson, who scored in Wellington's 2-0 win last month over the Mariners, looked dangerous up front and also covered plenty of ground tracking back in defensive cover when needed.

The Phoenix continued to dictate terms in the second half, 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, Lia's rocket from just outside the box crashing into the top left corner.

It was the 31-year-old midfielder's 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.

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