Mariners march past Glory
Central Coast have stretched their lead at the top of the Hyundai A-League ladder to five points after they downed 10-man Perth Glory 3-1 at nib Stadium on Friday night.
Glory went down to 10 men in the 26th minute when Josh Mitchell was awarded a red card following a challenge on Oliver Bozanic.
But despite being the better side until half-time, being a man down finally cost the Glory as they conceded three goals in a 15-minute burst through Bernie Ibini, Pedj Bojic and Matt Simon.
Steve McGarry pulled one back for Perth six minutes from time but there was no way the league-leading Mariners were giving this one up as they completed a comfortable win over a Glory side that slumps back to eighth on the table.
Both the teams played out a cagey opening 15 minutes as they each attempted to work their way forward through some patient approach work.
The best of the early chances still belonged to Central Coast, but the fact Bojic was attempting low-percentage long-range efforts was testament to a solidly organised Perth defence.
All that changed, though, when Mitchell was given a red card by referee Matt Gillett after sliding in to win the ball on the edge of the area.
Mitchell actually made contact with the ball, but his momentum also saw his outstretched leg slam into Bozanic's shin with what appeared to be a studs-up challenge.
Sensing the kill, the Mariners attacked with purpose and in the four minutes after the dismissal they recorded 92 percent of the possession as the hosts grimly hung on for dear life.
Having weathered the storm, the Glory slowly started gaining some possession and galvanised by the perceived injustice of losing a player, they threw everything at the Mariners in the half's final 12 minutes, starting with a barnstorming run by defender Trent McClenahan who took on two defenders before shooting wide.
Inspired by that example, the Glory lifted as a well-worked move from Travis Dodd and Billy Mehmet ended with Liam Miller firing over the bar in the 39th minute before Ibini responded with a strike that was well-covered by Danny Vukovic.
But having been poor before the break, the Mariners stepped up a gear after half-time.
Four minutes into the second period Ibini found himself on the scoresheet.
Patrick Zwaanswijk started the move from defence, slipping a pass forward to Simon whose clever through-ball allowed Ibini to run onto the ball on the right before cutting in and smashing in a ferocious shot that took a slight deflection off Vukovic.
In the 55th minute, Shane Smeltz probably should have done better as the industrious Josh Risdon swung in a cross from the left, which the striker didn't see in time to get to.
And the missed chance proved costly as the Mariners doubled the lead on the hour through a remarkable Bojic goal.
Michael McGlinchey slipped a pass through the defence that appeared to be going out just to the right of goal, but a desperate Bojic slid in to cross the ball, incredibly chipping it over Vukovic, who had charged off his line, before seeing the ball spin back into goal.
Matters just got worse four minutes later as Miller was dispossessed up forward, setting up a savage Mariners counter that saw Ibini accelerate down the right before cutting back to Simon who poked it home and recorded the 200th A-League goal to be scored at nib Stadium.
Glory lifted once again and even pulled a goal back in the final 10 minutes.
Matt Ryan did brilliantly to tip a 30-metre rocket from Miller around the post in the 83rd minute, but from the resultant corner, the Glory played it short and McGarry belted home a low shot from 30 metres through a crowded penalty area.
Glory substitute Adam Taggart nodded narrowly wide during injury time, but the result was still a formality for the Mariners who extended the gap between themselves and the chasing pack at the pointy end of the table.
Perth Glory 1 (McGarry 84)
Central Coast Mariners 3 (Ibini 49, Bojic 60, Simon 64)