Make it nine straight games now as Central Coast Mariners defeated Adelaide United 1-0 on Saturday at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford to extend their remarkable streak in A-League play. The championship holders kept just 34% of possession but got an early goal from Nick Fitzgerald and did not allow a shot on target over 90 minutes against the Reds. The victory was the first of the season for the Mariners and provided the first loss for Josep Gombau's new look Adelaide.
Fitzgerald scored inside of 90 seconds when gathering a pass from Mitchell Duke, he cut in from the right and fired into the bottom left corner of Eugene Galekovic's goal. While that was all Central Coast needed to claim all three points, it looked like it might just be the start of a barrage of goals at Bluetongue. Marcos Flores dictated the flow of attack and provided both shots and key passes, though they ultimately failed to result in additional goals.
In what could be a harbinger for bigger picture struggles, the Reds completed a stunning 522 passes at an 85% rate, held two-thirds of the possession and created seven shots against Central Coast. Yet none of the shots were on target and though they had the overwhelming majority of the ball, did very little to actually trouble Justin Pasfield. The Mariners' defense, which allowed just 22 goals last season, deserves credit as well, but Gombau's possession-oriented style might just be possession-only right now. That said, Adelaide did push Melbourne Victory to the limit last week. Perhaps it's just too early to give a definitive judgement on the Spaniard's system.
Regardless, the Mariners move up to third on the ladder with the victory. Had several shots not hit the post or crossbar, and against a lesser goalkeeper than Galekovic, Central Coast would be second on goal difference, clear of Western Sydney Wanderers. Still, it's a strong start to the season after so many offseason changes for the champions. Next up is a trip to Newcastle to face the struggling Jets on Saturday November 2. Adelaide will try to recover from its first defeat with a tricky away match at Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday night November 1.
Video highlights via Fox Sports Australia:
CCM Fitzgerald (Duke) 2'
Central Coast Mariners: Pasfield; Rose, Sainsbury, Anderson, Roux; Hutchinson (Griffiths 93'), Montgomery; McGlinchey, Flores (Sterjovski 78'), Fitzgerald (Simon 66'); Duke
Unused subs: Reddy, Curran
Adelaide United: Galekovic; Zullo, Boogaard, McKain, Elrich; Isaias, Malik (Watson 75'), Lustica; Cirio, Ferreira (Kitto 78'), McGrath (Mabil 59')
Unused Subs: Izzo, Elsey