The race for second spot on the A-League ladder will go down to the wire after Central Coast beat Western Sydney 2-1.
Central Coast have ensured the race for second spot on the A-League ladder goes down to the wire with a 2-1 victory coach Phil Moss says has silenced their critics.
Late substitute Bernie Ibini ensured victory with his dramatic 90th-minute winner after the Mariners midfielder Joshua Rose broke the stalemate and Nikolai Topor-Stanley levelled just before the break.
The defeat sees the Wanderers surrender second spot with only two games remaining as both the Mariners and the Melbourne Victory also chase the runners up position.
With second spot comes the advantage of a week off in the finals series and an Asian Champions League spot next year.
Moss praised his charges, who after losing every match they played in February, have since brought themselves back to win five of their last seven encounters and deliver a commanding performance against the Wanderers on Saturday.
“The three points are very handy this time of year,” Moss said.
“I think tonight we made a statement that we’re here and we’re here for keeps.
“We can achieve anything we want to achieve if we can perform like that on a big stage against a quality side like Western Sydney.
“There were a couple of questions thrown up about what sort of class we had and I thought we answered that tonight.
“Tonight we showed we can match it with the best in the league.”
Mile Sterjovski, playing his last home game before hanging up his boots, made way for Ibini in the 55th minute with coach Moss looking to get more pace up front.
It proved a masterstroke as Ibini threatened from the get go in what was a dominant second half for the Mariners.
Despite essentially being down to 10-men late in the match with Matthew Simon succumbing to severe cramp, the Central Coast were able to find a winner.
Moss insists however, they’re are not getting too far ahead of themselves and already dreaming of a title defence.
With tough away games to Perth and Brisbane remaining and the Asian Champions League to contend with Moss says his side is staying grounded.
“We’ve still got a lot of games to play and there’s still travel involved,” he said.
“So we’re not getting carried away, this is just another very important three points.”
Wanderers coach Tony Popovic was disappointed to see his side slip down the ladder at such a crucial stage of the season.
The Wanderers host premiers Brisbane next week before travelling to face Melbourne Heart.
“We relinquish second spot today, so we’re disappointed with that,” he said.
“The first half we were outstanding … but the second half we weren’t good enough, it’s as simple as that.
“We kept inviting pressure and they got that goal right at the end.”