Central Coast heap further pain on Western United with resounding victory in Gosford

Catch the highlights from Central Coast Mariners' 4-0 win over Western United.

Central Coast Mariners’ resurgence has continued with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Western United, who fell to a sixth straight defeat at Industree Group Stadium on Friday night.

The Mariners put the game away before half-time through goals to centre-back duo Dan Hall and Brian Kaltak, before a moment of magic from Marco Tulio extended their lead to three.

Alou Kuol added another in the final 10 minutes to wrap up the three points for the home side in Gosford.

After losing their first four games of the league season, Mark Jackson’s Mariners are now unbeaten in their last three Isuzu UTE A-League games, with their second win of the campaign taking the reigning champions into seventh place in the standings at the start of Round 7.

Now, their focus will turn to a must-win AFC Cup clash on Wednesday night against Stallion Laguna in the Philippines, as they look to stamp their place in the knockout stage.

Meanwhile, Western’s start to the season has gone from bad to worse.

They remain bottom of the standings with only three points to their name after seven games, along with the league’s worst scoring (three goals) and defensive record (16 conceded) – heaping further pressure on coach John Aloisi to turn things around in the coming weeks.

Central Coast came out strongly and opened the scoring in the 11th minute, as Tulio’s corner was nodded home by Hall – his first goal of the season.

The Mariners continued to push and were unlucky not to go ahead by two minutes later. Josh Nisbet kickstarted the attack, weaving his way through a host of Western players, before playing it to Torres who feed Miguel Di Pizio – but the youngster was unable to fire home first A-Leagues goal in his maiden league start – forcing a smart stop from Thomas Heward-Belle.

Western sprung on the counter, with the ball finding its way through to Noah Botic who was denied by Danny Vukovic, before putting his second effort over the bar.

Jackson’s charges continued to pose a threat every time they broke forward and Torres almost had his second goal in two games, but flashed his shot just wide of the mark after some lovely work from Tulio.

But they would eventually get their second. Torres’ corner was whipped into the back post and looped into the back of the net by Kaltak, with the ball incredibly looking to have come off the back of the Vanuatu international’s head.

The Mariners weren’t done inflicting the pain and they were soon three ahead. Jing Reec did well to nod the ball down to an on-rushing Torres, feeding an unmarked Tulio, who steadied himself and curled the ball expertly past Heward-Belle.

It was the Brazilian attacker’s first goal of the Isuzu UTE A-League season, but his eight in all competitions, including six in the AFC Cup.

Aloisi made three changes at half-time to try and spark an unlikely second half fightback, including bringing on Nikita Rukavytysa, but the Mariners just kept on coming.

Di Pizio’s eye-catching debut continued and the teenager forced two more good saves from Heward-Belle, including an effort which ricocheted off the crossbar, moments before he was subbed off.

Central Coast were relatively untested for much of the second-half, bar a long range strike from Angus Thurgate, who just put his effort wide of the post, before adding a fourth in the final ten minutes.

Western failed to clear a Mariners corner, as Heward-Belle’s initial save fell in the path of Jacob Farrell, whose shot slammed off the crossbar, ricocheted off Kaltak to Kuol who tapped home his third goal of the league season.

The Mariners wanted more and chased a fifth in second-half stoppage time, but both Tulio and Kuol were denied by the woodwork.

The talking point

Western United head coach John Aloisi says Friday night’s defeat to Central Coast was the worst performance he’s seen from his side throughout his tenure at the helm.

While the Central Coast Mariners has turned their fortunes around since the November international window, Western can’t seem to drag themselves out of the doldrums.

Western’s losing streak extended to six straight games on Friday night, continuing a poor run of form ever since their Round 1 victory over Melbourne City at AAMI Park.

John Aloisi’s side lost the first of these six games 5-0 to Western Sydney Wanderers, before four much-improved showings against Macarthur FC, Newcastle Jets, Adelaide United and Wellington Phoenix; you can make a fair argument they should have taken points from at least some of those contests.

However, Western weren’t at the races at Industree Group Stadium, conceding three of their four goal from corners and could have easily lost by a lot more had it not been for the woodwork and a few handy stops from Thomas Heward-Belle.

Western are now bottom of the standings with three points to their name, scoring only one goal and conceding 15 goals during this stretch.

Aloisi didn’t hide his frustrations with the team’s performances post-game on Paramount +.

“Worst performance since I’ve been at the football club,” he said.

“We weren’t good enough. The basics of football was to compete, and we didn’t compete from the very start. So I’ve got no excuses about the result.

“We all have to have a good look at ourselves because that was just not good enough. We got outplayed everywhere on the pitch.

“They weren’t brave enough… We’ve lost games this year that I understand that sometimes, you don’t get what you deserve in football games, and then when you have a bit of adversity like that, you have to show what you’re made of and we didn’t.

“That’s the biggest thing, because the basic structures that we work on all the time, they start to not understand that and not do it, with and without the ball, the players hiding didn’t want the ball.

“Not good enough. We have to fix it and and make sure because the other games we lost, we deserved more, but not tonight.

“I have to apologise to our supporters who did travel and whoever watched back home because that wasn’t good enough.”

Paramount + reporter Daniel Garb asked Aloisi how concerned he is about the team’s morale after six straight losses.

“I was concerned about tonight’s performance,” he said.

“The other performances, the results didn’t come. Tonight’s performance I was concerned about.

“The situation with the club, we have to build, we have to keep going, we have to make sure that we build this club because there’s a lot of things to do from top to bottom that we have to make sure we get right.

“This is a side that virtually won the Championship only a season and a half ago, not even so we know that we can we can do it, but the performance that we put on tonight was unacceptable.

“It’s about competing, three set pieces, and they get every first header. It’s about competing, that’s got nothing to do with tactics.

“We concede the four goals tonight and it could have beat more, but we concede three on set pieces. That’s the basics of football. That’s what I’m talking about.

“You want to win a football game. We concede after 10 minutes off a set-piece again. We all have to have a good look at ourselves and make sure that we get it right.”

The star

Central Coast kept their first clean sheet of the season, largely in part to the performance of Brian Kaltak.

The Mariners star was a rock defensively and even helped himself to a goal, as Mark Jackson’s side extended their unbeaten run to three straight games on Friday night.

Since Dan Hall joined him in the heart of defence, the Mariners have gone unbeaten, but for the first time the duo along with the rest of the Central Coast backline were able to keep a side out for the full 90 minutes.

As a result, the man behind him in goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, kept his 91st A-Leagues clean sheet, becoming the outright all-time leader ahead of Liam Reddy.

“Really, really special, especially for Vuka (Vukovic),” Kaltak said on Paramount +.

“We knew that it was coming, but we’ve been looking for a clean sheet if we can, but it didn’t come/

“We should have kept a clean sheet a few games ago, but it didn’t happen.

“I’m happy that we have the clean sheet today, especially for Vuka.”

What it means

Central Coast are playing with a newly found confidence in the last few weeks and now, they are only three points outside the top six heading into the remainder of Round 7.

However, the Mariners are back in action again in a matter of days, taking on Stallion Laguna in their final AFC Cup group stage clash in the Philippines on Wednesday before facing Melbourne City on Sunday at AAMI Park in a Grand Final rematch.

In fact, Central Coast play four of the next five league matches on the road.

Meanwhile, Western return to action on Friday night, when they face Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park – in what is set to be the first iteration of the ‘Aloisi Derby’ as John takes on his brother Ross.