A-League: Mariners beat Phoenix | news.com.au — Australia’s leading news site

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A stoppage-time strike from Brazilian right-back Mikael Doka has secured Central Coast a 2-1 win over Wellington Phoenix to keep the Mariners well and truly in the hunt for the A-League premiership.

Just as the Phoenix seemed certain to maintain their three-point lead at the top of the table after fighting back from a goal down to equalise through Ben Old on Saturday night in Gosford, the impressive Doka unleashed a left-footed shot from distance that nestled in the bottom corner of the net.

With three rounds of the regular season remaining, both teams are now locked on 46 points, with reigning champions Central Coast on top of the ladder thanks to more wins and a superior goal difference.

“I’m very happy for the boys and all of this is a testament to the hard work we’ve done,” Doka told Paramount +.

“We really want to win the title. I know we won the grand final last year, but we really want to finish first (on the ladder).”

Earlier, birthday boy Angel Torres’ 13th goal of the A-League season had given the Mariners the lead in the 61st minute when he headed home a Storm Roux cross.

However, the Phoenix hit back through Old, who scored from close range 17 minutes later after being found unmarked by a cross from substitute Oskar van Hattum.

But the Mariners weren’t to be denied, with Doka scoring a deserving late winner after the hosts had created most of the opportunities in the game.

Mariners coach Mark Jackson was delighted with his team’s “never-say-die” attitude.

“We’ve got a team of players that never say die, never give up and always keep pushing,” Jackson said.

“They have a great physical capacity and mental capacity to keep pushing on right until the end and we got our rewards tonight.”

Jackson praised Doka for his “fantastic” goal but preferred to focus on his whole team’s performance.

“He’s one piece in the team, and that’s what we are, we’re a strong team, we’re a good team and we do everything together.

“We attack together, defend together, we’re one club that’s fighting to have success this season and we’ll keep going right until the end.

“We have full belief in our team. We have a real collective spirit within the dressing-room and within the club.”

The Mariners should have gone ahead in the fourth minute through Socceroos midfielder Josh Nisbet.

However, Nisbet was foiled by Phoenix goalkeeper Alex Paulsen.

The Mariners continued to attack, with the visitors needing the woodwork to save them in the 25th minute when a Doka free-kick had Paulsen beaten before hitting the post.

The hosts had another opportunity 12 minutes later when Torres delivered an exquisite cross to the far post.

Teammate Brian Kaltak seemed certain to guide the ball home from close range, but he somehow failed to make contact.