Mariners v Victory

A-League report by Chris Dunkerley
Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory

In a fiery end to end encounter at Gosford tonight it was the clinical finishing of the Melbourne team that edged out the Coast in front of a bumper New Year's Eve gathering of 15,404 fans.

First half goals in a 3 minute spree by Victory's Brazilian creator Fred and Socceroo striker Archie Thompson turned the game on its head, and even though the Mariners dominated much of the possession they could only see a small return on their effort with a second half goal by Adam Kwasnik.

With Nik Mrdja (bruised heel) and Tom Pondeljak out through injury the Coast went with a makeshift striker in John Hutchinson, Mile Jedinak was out through suspension, but it was the weakened defence, having Tony Vidmar, Andrew Clark, and Paul O'Grady missing, that was expected to be their achilles heel. Melbourne made much of 'resting' players but really there was nothing weakened about the team they put on the park.

The Mariners went about it with intent from the whistle, with a 5th minute header by Jamie McMaster going just wide, and it took dogged defensive work by the Victory to keep out the local side, bayed on by the vocal crowd, for the first 10 minutes.

A great chance to go ahead by the Coast was lost when Noel Spencer, just back from injury, sent a header into the ground and past the left post, from a deep early cross from the right by Andre Gumprecht.

Danger signs for the locals when in the 11th minute Archie Thompson sent a ball accross to Fred whose header, contested by Wayne O'Sullivan, was forced wide.

Young Socceroo Bradley Porter, starting his first game for the Mariners, sent a superb through pass to Adam Kwasnik who worked his way up the left and weaved inside, only to blast his shot high.

Thompson was proving a handfull, switching sides, and he received a ball on the right on the run and with a change of direction made space to shoot on target. Coast 'keeper Danny Vukovic parried the shot and relieved the pressure briefly and the locals continued to press.

Again Thompson made the most of the off-side rule with his run to the right, making space to turn and whip a fierce cross that evaded the Coast defenders, but was met from the left by a surging Fred on the blind side of the defender, and he blasted the ball past a stranded Danny Vukovic. 1-0

Three minutes later was not picked up tight enough by rookie Porter in the area and turned him, blasting the ball past Vukovic. 2-0

In the 34th minute a ball to Stewart Petrie was then crossed and met by Adam Kwasnik who shot on thr run at an angle, drawing a save out of Melbourne 'keeper Eugene Galekovic. Coast continued to try to draw one back, with John Hutchinson on target three minutes later but shot saved.

Just as the half drew to a close a melee in the Victory penalty area didn't lead to a decisive shot by the Mariners.

The tempo of the game in the second half was up to the first, with Steve Pantelidis knocking in a 47th minute speculator for Melbourne, and at the other end one minute later Andre Gumprecht was on target as Galekovic went down to his right to save.

The Mariners were dominating with first Damien Brown forcing a save, and then from a corner Alex Wilkinson's header surprised Galekovic.

Another corner and Grant Brebner tried to head clear but lifted it over the pack, to be bundled in by Adam Kwasnik at the far post. 1-2

Now the Mariners lifted a notch with Brown again on target only to find Galekovic equal to the task, and then Brown curled in a cross that forced the keeper to punch out.

In the 68th minute McMaster latched onto a clearance from 25m but blasted it just over the crossbar.

It was still end to end stuff, delighting the crowd as they urged the yellow on, and the good group of travelling fans made their presence felt.

In the 83rd minute Kwasnik went down in the area but referee Shield was not moved, however play had continued and Galekovic pulled off a save.

It wasn't all Mariners however as two minutes later Thompson attempted to lob Vukovic, but the keeper was alert.

In the 86th minute Adam Kwasnik turned his marker and had the ball in the net, however he was judged off-side at the start of his run, causing the crowd to continue to question the parentage of the western side assistant.

The Coast continued to pressure for more goals but it was not to be. The Victory had come and done its job well, their fans in good mood celebrating the Premiers Plate and new year's eve far from home.

For the Mariners fans, some fireworks in an exciting game, before the NYE fireworks over Brisbane Water, but a dampener on the night never the less.

Both Adrian Leijer and Archie Thompson drew yellow cards from obliging referee Mark Shield in order to avoid suspensions in the finals. Leijer’s 86th minute yellow sees him miss the next two matches, while Thompson’s 87th minute delay of game also produced a yellow card which earns him an automatic one match ban - two presents for Perth Glory whom they meet next weekend.

The Mariners after two home losses must resurrect their finals chances with an away win against arch rivals Newcastle up the F3 on Friday, hopefully with a strenghtened defence.