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Mariners Sim-ply four-midable against Palm Beach

FFACup_QF_PBS_v_CCMFootball returned to CBus Stadium on Tuesday night, as the visiting Central Coast Mariners overwhelmed the Palm Beach Sharks 5-0 in front of over 2,000 fans. Substitute Matthew Sim was the hero on the night, scoring four goals for Phil Moss’ side, and catapulting them into the final four of the FFA Cup.

That Mariners controlled the tempo early on with slick passing between their defence and midfield, notching 80% of the possession in the opening ten minutes.

Central Coast left eight players back in Gosford, including Joshua Rose and Malick Mane, giving fringe players an opportunity to shine in the unique situation.

Isaka Cernak, in particular, impressed early on for the visitors, who on 16 minutes played a part in a smart cutback for Glen Trifiro to lash a shot at Sharks keeper Shane Vitakangas, and flashed a header of his own towards goal just minutes later.

Poor passing plagued the home side, as they found themselves in good positions time and time again, but floated in crosses towards the grateful Liam Reddy or a nearby yellow shirt.

Daniel Dragicevic, who had passed a late fitness test for the Sharks, would be the first player to make way, succumbing to his pre-existing hamstring injury, and was promptly replaced by Jonathan Camileri after 25 minutes.

Two minutes later, Cernak would make good on his early promise, latching on to a Trifiro flick-on and slotting a low shot to the left of the helpless keeper.

The hunger was evident in Cernak as again he cut a smart ball back for Richard Vernes just moments later, but the Hungarian could not get his shot on target.

Trifiro was proving a handful, and after Nick Fitzgerald was brought down, nearly scored an unlikely free kick from 25 metres out but the Sharks keeper was more than up to it, palming the ball over for a corner.

Surprisingly, the Sharks continued to go ‘route one’ to no avail, and time and time again they turned the ball over, with only the Mariners at fault for not making them pay.

Perhaps most evident of their lack of luck in the first half, in the 35th minute, the Sharks had no less than four players line up for a shot inside the penalty area only to not register a shot on goal at all.

Minutes later, Owen Murphy stretched out but failed to connect to a Palm Beach corner, after a purple patch for the home side.

Former Gold Coast United defender Kristian Rees collected the first yellow card of the game for an elbow on Vernes, but it would be the latter smiling as he walked off, with the Mariners leading 1-0 at the break.

The second half kicked off rather tit-for-tat with neither side registering a clear cut opportunity in the opening 10 minutes.

Palm Beach, realising that they needed to attack the game, began to press more with mixed results, and the Mariners were more than happy to sit back and soak up the pressure.

It would take until the 67th minute for the Sharks to get their first shot on target — a lobbed shot from Griffin going straight to Reddy.

Minutes later, the Mariners almost doubled their lead after Eddy Bosnar nearly flashed a header into the net from a Trifiro set piece.

On 70 minutes, Matt Sim would make the Sharks pay. Just moments after coming on, and after Vitakangas made a meal of a long Trifiro shot, the striker tucked away the chance with aplomb.

Desperate to hit back, Sharks Skipper Liam Mackay tried to lob Liam Reddy after catching him off his line, but again the Sharks came up fruitless.

A minute later, Sim had his second within two minutes on the counter, after a long ball from Trifiro, who notched a trio of assists on the night, to make the scoreline 3-0 to the visitors.

The home side pressed on to no avail, however, and as frustrations grew so did the foul count, with substitute Grzic going into the book for a late tackle on Cernak.

On 90 minutes, Matt Sim made it a ha-ttrick with Vitakangas again spoiling a Caceres curler, and Sim making no mistake from a handful of yards.

With Palm Beach on the rails, the enigmatic striker was by no means done, as he twisted and turned three defenders before slamming home his fourth goal emphatically.

With seconds on the clock, the visitors ran the time down to secure the first semi-final berth in the FFA Cup.

About the author

avatarKris is a freelance sports journalist, a two-time WA media guild award winner, and podcast host and writer for Ultimate A-League.

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