BERNIE Ibini has scored a dramatic late winner to hand the Central Coast a 2-1 victory over Western Sydney in the A-League tonight.
Ibini’s 90th-minute strike secured the three points for the Mariners with the Wanderers surrendering second spot with the defeat.
The Mariners snatched second place on the ladder.
Joshua Rose put the Mariners in front before Nikolai Topor-Stanley levelled just before the break at Central Coast Stadium today before late substitute Ibini put the game beyond doubt.
Aaron Mooy drew the first save of the match in the 26th minute, in what was a slow-starting game, creating a chance out of nothing, with Mariners gloveman Liam Reddy doing well to diffuse his strike.
The shot seemed to spark the game into life with Jerome Polenz putting Reddy to work just moments later.
But just as the Wanderers appeared to have the momentum the Mariners broke the deadlock.
Rose went on a menacing run from the half-way mark beating the Wanderers defence and outstretched keeper Ante Covic to put the hosts in front in the 32nd minute.
Celebrations were short-lived however, with the Wanderers equalising eight minutes later.
Mooy provided a superb ball into the box finding Tomi Juric who crossed the ball to the waiting Topor-Stanley to slot home.
It was a much more attacking Mariners who started the second half looking to regain the lead.
Mile Sterjovski, playing his last home game before hanging up his boots, made way for Ibini in the 55th minute with coach Phil Moss looking to get more pace up front.
It proved a masterstroke as Ibini threatened from the get go putting Covic on his toes with a booming strike just moments after coming on.
Ibini looked like scoring the winner with just over 10 minutes remaining brushing the post with a powerful strike.
Substitute Brendon Santalab had a chance to secure the three points for the Wanderers in the dying minutes getting on the end of a Shinji Ono free-kick into the box, but sent his header wide.
The Mariners kept searching for another goal with Mitchell Duke forcing a save from Covic.
But it was Ibini who netted the winner in the final minute of the match with Storm Roux providing the perfect cut-back for the forward.
Socceroos World Cup hopeful James Troisi moved into second spot in the race for the Golden Boot, scoring the equaliser as his Melbourne Victory drew 1-1 with Sydney FC in the A-League clash at AAMI Park.
Sydney FC moved into sixth spot on the table at Newcastle’s expense, although the Jets can go back ahead of them if they get a result against the Perth Glory tomorrow night.
Victory would have gone into second spot with a win, but instead remain fourth with two rounds of the home and away season to play.
Making his first start since December, striker Joel Chianese opened the scoring for the Sky Blues in the 48th minute.
Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas could only parry a strike from Ali Abbas straight into the path of Chianese, who sidefooted home from close range.
Melbourne got back on level terms in the 64th minute after skipper Mark Milligan won the ball on the edge of the area.
Gui Finkler got the ball on to Troisi, whose first-time strike from a tight angle beat Vedran Janjetovic in the Sydney goal.
It was Troisi’s 11th goal of the campaign, putting him level with Brisbane’s Besart Berisha and Melbourne Heart’s David Williams, who are all two behind Jets forward Adam Taggart in the race to be the league’s leading scorer.
Melbourne’s best scoring opportunity of the first half fell to Kosta Barbarouses in the 32nd minute.
The New Zealand international shimmied right and then left before hitting a firm shot just wide of the right upright.
The Sky Blues may have been unlucky not to be awarded a penalty on the stroke of halftime when an Alessandro Del Piero free kick appeared to strike the arm of Victory right-back Scott Galloway.
The incident was missed by referee Jarred Gillett, with Del Piero and Milligan exchanging angry words as they walked off at halftime.
After drawing level through Troisi, the Victory looked the more likely of the two teams to snatch a winner with further chances falling to Jimmy Jeggo, Adama Traore and Troisi.
Chianese also mishit a shot at the other end in the 78th minute.
Victory coach Kevin Muscat chose to rest star midfielder Tom Rogic, who has had a heavy playing schedule since joining the club from Celtic midway through the season.
The Victory must now turn their focus to a crucial Asian Champions League clash away to Japanese powerhouse Yokohama F Marinos on Wednesday.
Sydney’s next match is an A-League home clash against Wellington Phoenix on April 6.