Victory lose opener

Luck has deserted Melbourne Victory in the opening game of its Hyundai A-League championship defence following a shock 2-0 loss to the Central Coast Mariners at Etihad Stadium on Thursday night.

Luck has deserted Melbourne Victory in the opening game of its Hyundai A-League championship defence following a shock 2-0 loss to the Central Coast Mariners at Etihad Stadium on Thursday night.

In front of a healthy midweek crowd of nearly 19,000, the 2008/09 champions went down following two goals in the first 15 minutes from the visitors.

And both had an element of luck about them as Melbourne continued its poor record in season opening games now having won in the first round just once in five seasons of the Hyundai A-League.

Melbourne began with four changes from the starting line-up from last year's second Grand Final triumph over Adelaide with New Zealand recruit Glen Moss replacing the departed Michael Theoklitos in goal while Grant Brebner, Leigh Broxham and Evan Berger were in for Nick Ward and Billy Celeski, who were on the bench, and Seb Ryall, who is now with Sydney FC.

But Moss' first task for his new club was to pick the ball out of the net as the Mariners, who had been widely written off coming into the season following their disappointing Asian Champions League campaign, took an early lead.

The former Wellington Phoenix keeper had no chance when a free-kick from John Hutchison was not cleared by the Victory defence and fell invitingly for Matt Simon to smash home from close range in the 10th minute.

While Victory should still have done better in terms of clearing the free-kick, the home side was desperately unlucky in that the loose ball fell perfectly for the experienced Simon.

The Mariners, who lost their last five games of last year's Hyundai A-League season as well as failing to win any of their six Asian Champions League games, then doubled their lead just five minutes later in even more fortunate circumstances.

A long-range shot from Celtic recruit Michael McGlinchey looked covered by Moss but then took a wicked deflection off Victory defender Rody Vargas to leave Moss stranded and the Mariners celebrating a shock two-goal lead.

It was the kind of goal that must have had the home crowd and the Victory players thinking that this was just not going to be Melbourne's night as the team conceded its first goal in 475 minutes in the Hyundai A-League after keeping a clean sheet in the last five matches of last season's campaign on their way to a second Premiership/Championship double.

Melbourne rarely threatened in the first half but looked far sharper after the break with Carlos Hernandez almost curling a long-range shot home in the 47th minute before last year's Grand Final hero Tom Pondeljak came close in the 58th minute when he shot just over after a fine cross from Archie Thompson.

Hernandez came even closer with a rasping shot in the 65th minute but despite constant pressure the Mariners defence held firm as keeper Danny Vukovic pulled off a fine close range save from second half substitute Ney Fabiano in the 82nd minute leaving the Victory needing to rebound in its second game of the 2009/10 season when it hosts Brisbane Roar in Melbourne in nine days' time.

Melbourne Victory 0 Central Coast Mariners 2 (Simon 10', McGlinchey 15') Thursday, August 6, 2009 Etihad Stadium, Melbourne Referee: Matthew Breeze Crowd: 18,855

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