Football: Wellington Phoenix coach Giancarlo Italiano content with share of spoils after 'weird' top-of-table clash with Central Coast Mariners

The top-of-the-table A-League contest between Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast Mariners may not have been the spectacle it promised, but - all things considered - coach Giancarlo Italiano is perfectly content walking away with a share of the spoils.

First-placed Phoenix hosted second-placed Mariners at a sun-soaked Sky Stadium on Waitangi Day, with a season-high of more than 12,300 fans turning out for some public holiday action.

Ultimately, neither side really hit their straps, with opportunities on goal few and far between on a sweltering day in the capital, as the teams settled on an anti-climactic 0-0 draw.

Giancarlo Italiano before the match against the Mariners.
Giancarlo Italiano before the match against the Mariners. Photo credit: Photosport

Italiano suggests short turnarounds faced by each of the teams played a part in the lack of onfield spark.

The Phoenix backed up from a 1-1 draw at Brisbane on Friday, while the Mariners had only two days' respite from their big win over Adelaide United on Saturday.  

"We basically just cancelled each other out," said Italiano. "It's a weird game and a weird feeling.

"Did we play our best? Probably not.

"Did the fact that we played a couple of days earlier affect the quality? Yes, but they also went through it.

"I'll take the point, no complaints."

The result extends the Phoenix's unbeaten streak to five games and maintains their two-point lead over the Mariners atop the ladder. They're yet to lose a game since the turn of the year, with their last loss dating back to December 29 against Sydney FC.

"You could tell after probably 30 minutes both teams were pretty fatigued, but it was a good contest," Italiano added. "I felt as though, tactically, we both we matched each other quite well."

Nevertheless, Italiano still rues a few missed chances from his team, which were somewhat makeshift - particularly through the midfield, where they missed regular starters Nicholas Pennington and Mohamed Al-Taay.

"I was a little bit annoyed, probably towards the end, because I think we still had opportunities to get forward," he said. "Unfortunately, I just didn't have the right personnel coming off the bench that could make the impact that I wanted.

"I had [Bozhidar Kraev] out of position and I thought he did really well, to be fair, but still, one v two and we didn't concede, which was really good. I thought there were some really positive moments in that first half.  

"I felt, when we found the opposite side, we were quite dangerous. I think we had maybe two or three really good cutbacks that, if we go back on the video, we probably should have scored."

The Phoenix face another quick about-face for their next outing at home against Western United on Saturday.