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City score Central Coast success

The Mariners had gone ahead in the pre-season friendly via a smart finish from the edge of the area by Olyroos captain Oliver Bozanic midway through the first half. But the ASB Premiership side hit back shortly after when fullback Ian Hogg was brought down in the box and referee Chris Kerr had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
City’s Spanish striker Manel Exposito stepped up to take the penalty and gave goalkeeper Mat Ryan no chance with a neat finish.
Against all expectations, the home team struck again on the stroke of halftime, midfielder Alex Feneridis latching onto a through ball and dispatching it past Ryan to the delight of the healthy crowd that had packed into Henderson’s Croatian Cultural Society ground.
Central Coast, who earned silver in last year’s A-League after losing a thrilling final on penalties to Brisbane Roar, piled on the pressure in the second spell and enjoyed plenty of possession and territory.
But they could not break down a stubborn Auckland rearguard – held together with solid performances by centre-half pairing Ivan Vicelich and Angel Berlanga – and it was City who instead troubled the scorers again to wrap up a memorable night for the club.
Just moments before the final whistle, subsitute Emiliano Tade found himself in a good position on the right hand side of the area and fired a low shot across Ryan to complete an historic win, City’s first ever over A-League opposition.
It was the Mariners’ first loss of their 14-game pre-season campaign – including a 2-0 win over Wellington Phoenix last weekend – and City coach Ramon Tribulietx was delighted with both the performance and the result.
“Considering we are only a few weeks into our preparation I thought it was an excellent performance,” he said.
“It was a great result but the way we played was even more pleasing. We were playing against a side who do things a lot more quickly than we are used to and it took a while to adapt and adjust to the speed.
“They are one of the best teams in Australia and have a squad of fulltime professionals so we are very happy. I think it highlighted the depth of our squad because our intensity didn’t drop when we made changes in the second half.”
Central Coast coach Graham Arnold was full of praise for both the ability of City and the club’s hospitality off the pitch.
“They are a team that is going to the FIFA Club World Cup and have some very good players. The Spanish players they have brought in are of a very high standard and, full credit to them, they played well and at a very high intensity,” he said.
“Their great club has treated us fantastically well, putting us up in New Zealand and giving us a great game. We can’t thank them enough for their generosity.”
Arnold was not unduly bothered by the defeat and said the result was not the most important thing to take out of the match.
“This was always going to be used as a fitness drill as much as anything else. We played man-on-man throughout the entire pitch to ensure everyone kept working hard for the 90 minutes,” he said.
“I don’t like to have not played a game more than 10 days before another match, so this was the perfect final hit-out for us.”
Central Coast begin their A-League campaign in a repeat of last season’s final against Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium on October 8 while Auckland City’s defence of the O-League title starts with a trip to the Solomon Islands to play Koloale on October 29.

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