Advantage City in Premiership race as new leaders beat top-four challengers Mariners

Melbourne City FC v Central Coast Mariners - Highlights | Liberty A-League 2023-24 | Round 21

Melbourne City climbed to the top of the Liberty A-League table after a 3-0 win over fellow top-four contenders Central Coast Mariners on Saturday afternoon.

First-half goals to Hannah Wilkinson and Emina Ekic set City on course to victory; the Mariners were offered a way back into the contest shortly after half-time from the penalty spot but Matildas star Kyah Simon couldn’t convert as City kept their two-goal lead intact.

Taylor Otto tucked home City’s third and her second goal of the season to wrap up the three points late in the piece.

City now sit two points clear of Sydney FC on top of the table – but the Sky Blues now have two games in hand over their Victorian rivals, remaining firm favourites to claim the Premiers Plate by the end of the season.

Melbourne City’s commitment to playing out from the back almost saw them come unstuck when Kyah Simon turned the ball over high up the pitch and set up Rola Badawiya to strike from the edge of the area.

Badawiya took aim at the bottom-left corner andonly marginally missed the target.

A quiet start to the came sparked into life when City scored twice in four minutes just prior to the half-hour mark.

City’s first goal was Hannah Wilkinson’s 29th in the Liberty A-League, brushed home from close range after Shelby McMahon’s shot was spilled into her path by Mariners keeper Sarah Langman.

The hosts doubled the lead from the penalty spot; the penalty was awarded for a handball by Tiarna Karambasis in a challenge with Rebekah Stott in the box, leading Emina Ekic to the spot who fired City into a two-goal ead.

Wurigumula attempted to bring the Mariners back into the contest, played down the left wing by Faye Bryson and the Chinese international created space to shoot but fired over the crossbar.

The Mariners came out from half-time in need of a quick goal to halve the deficit and were given the chance to do so four minutes after the restart when Wurigumula went down in the box under slight contact from Laura Hughes to earn the visitors a penalty.

Matildas forward Simon took the responsibility from the spot but couldn’t capitalise, missing the target altogether.

Bryson looked to pick out the top corner from distance with a along-range bomb soon after Simon’s penalty miss but City keeper Bárbara produced a save to match, diving to her left to tip the ball over the bar.

City kept their two-goal lead intact until late in the piece when defender Otto found herself in the right place at the right time to brush her side’s third of the game home from close range and seal all three points.