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Duke fires Mariners to a last-gasp win

A late goal to Central Coast’s Mitchell Duke has handed the home side an opening week victory over their bitter rivals, the Newcastle Jets. In front of over 10,000 fans at Central Coast Stadium, the game turned dramatically in second-half stoppage time, when the game seemed destined to end in a scoreless draw.

Central Coast came into the game rightfully full of confidence, given they were unbeaten in their last 5 matches against their rivals, with the Jets having registered just one victory at Central Coast Stadium in their 16 previous visits there.

Mariners coach Phil Moss handed a debut to Senegalese striker Malick Mane, leading the attacking line with youngster Mitchell Duke. Down back, Moss continued with the same back four that he used last season — namely Storm Roux, Zac Anderson, Eddy Bosnar and Josh Rose.

For the Jets, there was a plethora of new faces in the starting XI. Former New York Red Bull player Jonny Steele started on the left wing, with Ecuadorian striker Edson Montano sitting in front of the talismanic Joel Griffiths at the point of the Jets’ attack.

Of the debutants, though, it was Central Coast’s Mane that impressed early. Rose fed the ball into the path of Mane in the 12th minute, but his flying shot was well blocked by the stoic Jets defence. Later in the half, Mane received the ball in his defensive third before proceeding on a pitch-long run with the ball at feet, only for his shot to be blocked yet again.

The first half, itself, ultimately failed to kick into second gear, as both sides struggled to create chances, and deliver quality balls into their forward structures. Mane, again, had a chance in the 33rd minute, but his shot was cleared off the line, following Josh Rose’s initial shot on goal that was parried by Mark Birighitti.

In the 36th minute, a close offside call denied Edson Montano an opener for the Jets, after Liam Reddy parried a shot by Joel Griffiths into the path of the Ecuadorian. Replays suggested the referee’s assistant made the correct call.

After the break, the Jets pressed hard, but were still unable to find a killer final ball into the box.

The Mariners, however, seemed comfortable attacking on the counter. Mitchell Duke’s mazy run down the left led to him finding Matt Sim unmarked in the box, but the Mariners’ forward could only disappointingly scuff his shot away from goal. Minutes later, a clever give-and-go between Kim and Rose released the latter toward the byline, but his ball across the face of goal was agonisingly out of reach for the onrushing Storm Roux.

A corner for the Mariners in the 57th minute came to nothing, and allowed the Jets to escape on the fast break. Virgili found Jonny Steele in the center of the park, and after chesting the ball down, Steele saw Reddy off his line and attempted to lob the goalkeeper from 30 metres out. Unluckily for the large contingent of Jets fans, the ball would only fall on top of the net, inches away from opening the scoring.

Both teams continued to press for a winner, and John Hutchinson would go close in the 74th minute. Receiving the ball with his back to goal, the Mariners’ captain turned and fired from just outside the penalty area. The ball eluded a sprawling Birighitti, and narrowly flashed across the face of goal — much to the relief of the Jets shot-stopper.

In the closing minutes, a cross by Steele searching for substitute Jeronimo Neumann was the best of the Jets’ opportunities, but the cross was well punched clear by Liam Reddy.

Then, when it seemed as if the game was headed for a dour draw, Mitchell Duke popped up in injury time to hand his side an opening round win. A set piece from the left wing looped over a pack of players in the penalty area to find the boot of Duke, with the ball dribbling past a dejected Mark Birighitti in the Jets goal.

About the author

avatarJustin is a passionate football fan, and the Editor-in-chief of Ultimate A-League.

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