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Mariners claw back Sydney in Gosford

Central Coast have scored two late goals to secure a hard-fought 2-2 draw against Sydney FC tonight, further damaging the visitors’ chances of qualifying for the A-League Finals Series.

The Mariners would have been hoping to put a six game losing streak to an end against a misfiring Sydney FC who, themselves, were dealing with an eight game winless streak in the league.

To make matters worse for the Mariners, Tony Walmsley had a few selection headaches ahead of the game, with both Mitch Austin and marquee Luis Garcia suspended and compounded by a leg injury to Tomi Uskok. As a result, Michael Neill was re-introduced after serving his suspension last week, whilst Liam Rose and Josh Bingham also earned starts.

For Sydney, a 3-1 shock loss at home to the Phoenix 7 days earlier would’ve been offset — somewhat, at least — by a stirring away victory over South Korea’s Pohang Steelers in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday.

Graham Arnold made five changes to the side that lost to Wellington, with Calver, Stambolziev, Dimitrijevic, Ninkovic and Jurman replaced by Zac Anderson, George Blackwood, Jacques Faty, Mickael Tavares and marquee Filip Holosko.

Despite the heavy travel schedule, Sydney started the game brightly and in just the 11th minute, they took an early lead.

Tavares showed some poise and fancy footwork under pressure to feed the ball to Blackwood in space in the middle of the park. The youngster charged forward as the Mariners defence sat off him, then deviated to his right before unleashing a shot from outside the box past Paul Izzo and into the far corner of the net.

Blackwood almost added a second in the 19th minute, after a calamitous error by Izzo.

The Central Coast stopper charged out of his box to head a long ball away from the young Sydney striker, but only proceeded to misjudge the bounce of the ball and allow Blackwood to gain possession. From a tight angle on the by-line, Blackwood tried a shot with the outside of his boot but, luckily for Izzo, it could only find the side netting.

Sydney were beginning to turn the screws, and four minutes later, Tavares went close after a promising build-up from Faty on the right-side of the box.

Central Coast, though, weren’t completely toothless up front. O’Donovan and Ferreira combined well in the 36th minute, with the latter firing a shot on the turn past the near post with Janjetovic scrambling.

Then, the Mariners were their own worst enemy in the shadows of half-time, switching off from a free kick and allowing Shane Smeltz to double the Sky Blues’ advantage.

A quick free-kick allowed the Kiwi international to escape into the penalty area, before he cut inside to wrong-foot both his defender and Izzo and place the ball into the far corner.

Sydney should’ve then killed the match off just five minutes after the restart.

After Izzo blocked the ball away from the feet of Blackwood, Filip Holosko recovered and put the ball on a platter for Shane Smeltz. With the goal at his mercy, Smeltz’s low shot was somehow cleared off the line by a lunging Harry Ascroft, keeping the Mariners in the contest for the time being.

The Mariners finally managed an opportunity in the 71st minute, with O’Donovan whipping a cross in from the right wing to find the head of a leaping Josh Bingham.

Disappointingly, though, Bingham’s header lacked power and accuracy, as it looped harmlessly over the bar.

With four minutes left in the match, though, the Mariners would ensure an exciting finish.

A sloppy turnover in midfield by Sydney substitute Milos Dimitrijevic allowed the Mariners to charge forward, with O’Donovan volleying home from a pinpoint cross toward the penalty spot.

Then, in the blink of an eye, the Mariners were level at 2-2.

As the game ticked into four minutes of injury time, Liam Rose advanced through the centre of the park to find Harry Ascroft. Ascroft turned and sized up the opportunity, firing a shot at Janjetovic who, inexplicably, fluffed the save and allowed the ball to trickle over the line.


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About the author

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

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  • britesparke

    Sydney managed to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory. Credit to the Mariners for not giving up hope and showing their fans that they are made of sterner stuff. Pity that only a small crowd of 6000+ were on hand to witness a great comeback by the Mariners.