Mariners stay top with win over Perth
Substitute Bernie Ibini ensured an understrength Central Coast entered the new year on top of the A-League ladder with the decisive goal in the Mariners' 1-0 home win over Perth at Bluetongue Stadium on Monday.
Ibini's 67th-minute goal was the first shot on target of a match dominated by two well-drilled defences.
It was the Mariners' sixth win from as many home games this season.
Without the suspended trio of playmaker Tomas Rogic, leading goal-scorer Daniel McBreen and captain John Hutchinson, Central Coast struggled to penetrate the Glory rearguard.
Perth were a man down from the 76th minute when Dutch central defender Bas van den Brink was sent off after collecting a second yellow card.
Glory created the only decent chance of the first half, but it was spurned by normally deadly striker Shane Smeltz.
The unmarked New Zealand international put a sidefoot volley wide from six metres out following a good cross from Steven McGarry.
At the other end, former Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic pushed away a couple of dangerous crosses, but the home team struggled to create a genuine shot on goal in the first half.
The Mariners upped the tempo in the second half and looked the more likely to score.
Striker Adam Kwasnik had a headed goal disallowed in the 47th minute for offside and headed wide 12 minutes later.
The breakthrough came shortly after when 53rd-minute substitute Ibini won a challenge with Scott Jamieson to an Oliver Bozanic cross.
The 20-year-old striker drilled the ball past Vukovic for his third goal of the season.
Glory didn't create much in the second half and their hopes plummeted after van Den Brink, who had earlier been booked for a foul on Michael McGlinchey, was given his second card for an illegal challenge on Mile Sterjovski.
Perth didn't have an attempt on target in the whole game, while the Mariners had just two.