Nick Fitzgerald’s second minute strike has given Central Coast Mariners their first win of the A-League season as they defeated Adelaide United 1-0 on Saturday in Gosford.
Searching for a win after two draws to open up their title defence, Graham Arnold’s men took advantage of slack Adelaide defence in the opening moments but were then wasteful throughout the third round match.
Despite their profligacy in front of goal the result was well deserved for the 2012/2013 grand final winners as they held on for victory despite Adelaide dominating possession for large swathes of the encounter.
The visitors saw the return of former Mariner Nigel Boogaard and Spaniard Isaias, both from suspension, however prolific striker Jeronimo Neumann was missing due to a groin injury.
New Zealand international Michael McGlinchey was elevated to the starting line-up for the Mariners in place of Mile Sterjovski.
Twenty one-year-old Fitzgerald bounced into action after Sergio Cirio’s early curling shot for Adelaide saw the Mariners replay with interest with a goal after 84 seconds.
More chances came as the trio of Fitzgerald, Marcos Flores and Mitchell Duke terrorised the visitor’s defence.
However Adelaide, after a slow start, came in to the fixture as off-season recruit Sergio Cirio was able to catch out the Mariners defence on a few occasions but for no reward.
The Reds best chance fell to Tarek Elrich on 26 minutes in bizarre circumstances when Mariners shot-stopper Justin Pasfield rolled out the ball towards McGlinchey only for the 26 year-old to lose the ball before Elrich shot wide.
Nine minutes later McGlinchey missed wide on a free kick attempt as the Mariners dominated the first half shots on goal 8-2.
It should have been 2-0 at the interval but Adelaide keeper Eugene Galekovic and then the underside of the crossbar saved Joep Gombau’s team after Fitzgerald attempted to finish off a cross from Joshua Rose.
Both sides were more circumspect to open the second half with substitutions of Matt Simon (Mariners) and Awer Mabil (Red), creating attacking opportunities upon their introduction.
Galekovic was called into action again for the South Australian’s as a 69th minute free kick from McGlinchey had to be parried away. This came after Osama Malik, who only moments earlier was booked ,conceded the free kick.
Five minutes later headers from Trent Sainsbury and Matt Simon threatened the Adelaide goal but yet again the Mariners failed to double their lead.
Mariners substitute Simon had two further chances to score in the soace of two minutes but wasted both. Firstly in the 80th minute, Sterjovski (who also came on as a substitute) crunched a half-volley into the left hand post before Simon hit the follow-up into the bar.
Twenty seven year-old Simon then struck a McGlinchey pass wide as the Mariners searched for a second goal.
Adelaide’s late attempts, particularly a great run by Cirio, were in vein as the Mariners collected a deserved three points.
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Fitzgerald 2)
Adelaide United 0
Crowd: 9,109 @ Bluetongue Stadium