Mariners, Adelaide gap A-League field
The battle for the A-League premiership is shaping up as a two-horse race after Central Coast and Adelaide put an eight-point gap on their rivals with impressive wins.
After the Mariners breezed past Melbourne Heart 2-0 on Friday night, the Reds returned serve on Sunday by defeating Wellington 3-1 at Hindmarsh Stadium.
The win ensured Adelaide (25 points) kept on the heels of the Mariners (26) and the pair has now opened up a comfortable lead over third-placed Melbourne Victory (17) after 11 rounds.
With eight wins apiece, both of the leading sides have made better season starts than the Mariners and Brisbane Roar did last season, and the Roar in their dominant 2010-11 campaign.
With the halfway mark of the season approaching, the Mariners and Reds already appear hard to run down in the race for the premiers' plate but neither is getting caught up in the hype.
"Don't worry about reading too much about what is said in the press because if you start believing the media too much, then you're going to get yourself in trouble," Reds coach John Kosmina said.
"You can't deny the table but if you pay too much attention to it, you lose focus.
"We have now got eight points on Melbourne and probably 13 goals, I would say, so that is great ... but if you want to rely on that, you're going to get yourself in trouble.
"We still need to be beat Western Sydney (on Friday)."
Mariners coach Graham Arnold said his side had "achieved nothing" yet.
"We've put ourselves in a great position to have a successful season but ... they don't hand trophies out in December," he said.
The Victory threatened to join the breakaway a fortnight ago but had their momentum halted by last week's 4-2 loss to Adelaide and a 1-1 draw with the Roar on Saturday.
The result left the two-time reigning champions Brisbane (11) languishing in ninth spot, five wins shy of the Mariners, but former coach Ange Postecoglou isn't ruling them out of the title race just yet.
"I see no reason why they shouldn't (be in finals contention). They're still a very good team," the Victory coach said.
Newcomers Western Sydney continued their stellar debut season with a comfortable 2-0 victory over neighbours Sydney FC to strengthen their hold on fourth spot.
The Sky Blues (10) remain last with new coach Frank Farina admitting a tough run over games over the Christmas period will make or break their season.
Perth Glory (14) are fifth after returning to form with a 3-0 win over sixth-placed Newcastle (13) at nib Stadium on Friday night.
The inconsistent Phoenix (12) and the Heart (12) are just outside the top six.