Brisbane Roar's bid to jump back into the Hyundai A-League's top six has taken a knock with Mike Mulvey's men suffering a 1-0 loss to second-placed Central Coast Mariners at Bluetongue Stadium today.
Bernie Ibini's 34th minute goal was the only difference between the two sides as blustery conditions made it difficult for either team to stamp their mark on the match in the opening stages.
It took 12 minutes for either side to fashion a clear cut opportunity in front of goal and the maiden chance fell to Roar midfielder Steven Lustica, who is on loan from Croatian club Hajduk Split.
He connected with a corner that Luke Brattan struck low across the penalty area but sent his first time effort just high of the crossbar in a well-practiced move.
While Lustica again tried his luck two minutes later - this time with a shot from distance - it was Michael Theo who was Brisbane's busiest player in the opening period, denying the Mariners with three top-class saves inside the first 45 minutes of play.
He got the vital touch to redirect two efforts from Michael McGlinchey - a 23rd minute volley and a one-on-one effort later in the half - with an equally important, low save to a Daniel McBreen header sandwiched in between.
McBreen's strike partner Bernie Ibini was quickest to react to the rebound, slicing his close-range shot over the crossbar when it seemed harder to miss.
The young striker made amends for wasting that particular chance by finding the match's opening goal in the 34th minute.
Just inside the edge of the Roar penalty area, Ibini was allowed space to turn, showing off some tricky footwork and unleashing a left-footed shot that beat Theo at his near post.
Brisbane coach Mulvey looked to shake things up early in the second half by making a double change inside the first 15 minutes, introducing the attacking pair of Ben Halloran and Mitch Nichols.
The latter made an impact almost immediately, finding Stefan Nijland onside with one of his first touches - a move that allowed Brisbane's Dutch signing to stream towards goal with just Mat Ryan to beat.
Unluckily for the Roar faithful, Ryan pushed Nijland's effort away while Besart Berisha's follow-up strike deflected wide and the away side was unable to capitalise.
Nijland went close again in the 72nd minute when Central Coast defender Zac Anderson fouled Berisha in a dangerous position, but his delivery from the set piece bounced off the post to Ryan's right.
Deep in stoppage time with the final kick of the match, Brisbane's last chance to notch a late equaliser fell to Jade North but the veteran defender's volley from a Thomas Broich header flew agonisingly high of the woodwork.
The result leaves Brisbane two points out of a finals position with just two Hyundai A-League regular season matches left to play in the 2012/13 campaign.
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Bernie IBINI 34')
Brisbane Roar 0
Sunday, 17 March 2013
Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford
Kick-off: 5pm local time, 4pm Brisbane time
Referee: Alan Milliner
Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mat RYAN (gk), 2. Daniel McBREEN, 3. Joshua ROSE, 5. Zachary ANDERSON, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON (c), 9. Bernie IBINI, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY (19. Mitchell DUKE 67'), 16. Trent SAINSBURY, 18. Nick MONTGOMERY, 29. Nick FITZGERALD (11. Oliver BOZANIC 61')
Substitutes not used: 13. Brent GRIFFITHS, 20. Justin PASFIELD (gk)
Yellow cards: John HUTCHINSON 86'
Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEO (gk), 3. Shane STEFANUTTO, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 7. Besart BERISHA, 9. Stefan NIJLAND, 13. Jade NORTH, 14. Steven LUSTICA (17. Mitch NICHOLS 61'), 15. James DONACHIE, 18. Luke BRATTAN (8. Massimo MURDOCCA 78'), 19. Jack HINGERT, 22. Thomas BROICH (c)
Substitutes not used: 20. Matt ACTON (gk)
Yellow cards: Jack HINGERT 37', James DONACHIE 90+3'
Red cards: Nil