Wanderers Take Top Spot In Bluetongue Raid

The most amazing story in modern Australian sporting history became even more astonishing tonight as the all-conquering NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers beat the Central Coast Mariners in their own backyard.

The most amazing story in modern Australian sporting history became even more astonishing tonight as the all-conquering NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers beat the Central Coast Mariners in their own backyard.

Not only was it the first time the Mariners have been beaten at home this season - they also relinquished first position on the Hyundai A-League table to the marauding Wanderers and their imposing travelling army .

In a season where Hyundai A-League records are being broken every week by the competition new comers - the Wanderers matched the most impressive of them, by notching an amazing eight straight wins.

That feat has only been achieved once before by Melbourne Victory in late 2006.

A goal to super sub Labinot Haliti, his third for the year, late in the second half saw the Wanderers secure a hard-fought 1-0 victory in atrocious conditions at Bluetongue Stadium.

It was a terrible night for Graham Arnold-s men who seemed to get all the decisions go their way but they could still not subdue or unsettle the visitors.

First time head coach Tony Popovic out foxed his friend and mentor with a series of tactical masterstrokes including substituting workhorse Dino Kresinger upfront for Haliti in 72nd minute and Shinji Ono for Aaron Mooy in the 60th minute and both made important contributions that changed the match.

Haliti had an immediate impact and he was soon played onto goal by a beautiful Mark Bridge pass in the 81st minute.

The finish was superb as he drove the ball across goalkeeper Mat Ryan and into the net to send the nine bays of red and black into raptures .

The Premier-s Plate is now firmly in sight for the Wanderers who have a two-point lead at the top of the table with only four matches to go.

They are virtually assured of a home major semi-final at Parramatta Stadium for a spot in the grand final - a remarkable feat for a team that came together only seven months ago.

Popovic said there was nothing the team could not achieve and they deserved to savour the victory.

He said they had played plenty of better matches but good teams also needed to win when they performed below their best.

“To come here and win is tough and they have not been beaten at home and you can see why,” Popovic said after the game.

“Our travelling fans were fantastic again and this is a great day for our football club.

“The players deserve the credit and they keep performing and when they are not at their best like tonight they find a way to get a result.”

The win in front of 18,721 inflicted the first loss home for the Mariners this season in 11 games.

The match started willingly with more than 5000 Wanderers supporters in fine voice as both sides pushed forward to pressure their opposing defenses.

The wet conditions meant a high scoring slugfest was never on the cards but the challenges were willing and the tempo was high.

The Wanderers pressed up the middle and the Mariners relentlessly used their wing backs on the counter.

One of the softest penalties given this year was awarded to the home team for a push on Patrick Zwaanswijk off the ball during a corner in the 51st minute.

Up stepped goalkeeper Ryan, whose woeful shot was easily saved by Wanderers stopper Ante Covic in an embarrassing episode.

It marked the Mariners- fourth straight penalty failure and is a worrying sign for the lead up to the finals.

The Wanderers- next home game is on Sunday March 10 at Parramatta Stadium at 5pm.