Defending champions Central Coast have beaten Sydney FC 1-0 thanks to a Mile Sterjovski second-half strike
Central Coast Mariners have kept the heat on the A-League's top two and kept Sydney FC's season in freefall after a well-earned 1-0 win on Saturday night.
Mile Sterjovski's second half thunderbolt – with the aid of a wicked deflection off Matthew Jurman – was enough to hand the Mariners victory in front of just over 16,000 fans at Allianz Stadium.
While there was some luck over the winning goal it was just what the visitors deserved after squandering a host of good chances in the first half.
The result means Phil Moss' side are now unbeaten in their last four matches and they are back up to third within striking distance of leaders Brisbane and Western Sydney.
But there's not much positive for the Sky Blues at the moment, who have now won just once in their last seven matches and they could end the weekend as low as eighth spot.
Corey Gameiro was making his first start for the Sky Blues and it was the young attacker who ensured the Mariners didn't take an early lead from Daniel McBreen's header.
The 20-year-old was positioned perfectly on the line and got his body in the way as to keep the veteran striker's bullet-header out.
It was a sign of things to come as the visitors continued to create – and waste – the best opportunities.
Only a neat low save by Vedran Janjetovic denied Mariners left-back Josh Rose a rare goal, while Matt Simon didn't have his radar right with a header from just five metres out.
The Mariners' best chance fell to youngster Nick Fitzgerald who was clear through on goal after beating the offside trap but despite having time and acres of space, fired over the bar.
While they were second best for much of the opening half, Sydney did have their own fleeting moments.
Ranko Despotovic thought he had them in front when he rounded Liam Reddy and scored but he was rightly adjudged offside, while the Mariners keeper made himself big to keep out Ali Abbas just before the break.
The second half wasn't as open as the first but Gameiro should have put Sydney in front not long after the resumption.
Despotovic did brilliantly to flick Alessandro Del Piero's hopeful lump forward into Gameiro's path but the youngster scuffed his shot with the goal at his mercy.
It would prove a costly miss as two minutes later the Mariners were in front.
Sterjovski was given too much space just outside the box and his powerful shot struck Jurman on the arm, wrong-footing Janjetovic and nestling in the back of the net.
Sydney introduced new signing Milos Dimitrijevic soon after but the Serb was unable to inspire a fightback, with only some Janjetovic brilliance and poor finishing denying the Mariners a bigger victory.