Sydney v Mariners

A-League report by Paul Green
Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners

Two crucial saves by Sydney FC keeper Clint Bolton, the first a Schwarzer-style ‘one-hand-thrown-back' effort and the second achieved by being in the right place at the right time, when Mariners' striker Adam Kwasnik failed to pull the trigger hard enough, was enough to stop Central Coast getting their first win of the season on day one.

In front of 19,274 fans, on a day when trackwork had made life hard for travelling Mariners' fans to get to the game, both teams were very evenly matched.

But Central Coast was on the offensive from the outset and created most of the first half chances.

Lacking a Stewart Petrie and the midfield guile of Tom Pondeljak, until late in the game, when it was too late, the Mariners were unable to make their hard work count.

Strong showings from Andre Gumprecht, in the first half and Noel Spencer, throughout, came to nothing.

It all came undone thanks to some individual flair from FC marksman, Saso Petrovski, whose clever back-heel in the path of Iain Fyfe, after a cross from the left by ex-Wollongong Wolves team-mate, Alvin Ceccoli, allowed the full back and recent Socceroo squad member time to lash a first time drive low into the bottom of the net. It was Fyfe's first A League goal.

The first chance of the game may have fallen to FC skipper Steve Corica, just inside the box, but Danny Vukovic took the shot confidently and thereafter Central Coast had the upper hand winning most of the corners and challenging the home defence inside the area to some close calls.

In the 15th minute a visionary pass through to Jamie McMaster by Gumprecht sprang the offside attempt; but Bolton read the ball brilliantly to come off his line and smother before the youngster could pounce. Perhaps that was a third crucial save?

Kwasnik's header at the far post, in the 21st, was palmed away by Bolton in reflex fashion after a deep ball from the right by Damien Brown.

That was certainly the first.

Andrew Clark found some room, out wide on the right of the area in the 40th minute and was well placed to receive a lofted pass from the left, played over the heads of the Sydney defenders by Vuko Tomasevic.

Clark hit the ball sweetly on the volley but it cleared the bar by inches.

Clark had made a couple of important tackles on Alex Brosque and Petrovski, late in the first half, though the game belonged more to Coast than to Sydney at that stage.

The only goal of the game came in the 52nd minute and Fyfe's arrival from deep completely outwitted the Mariners' defence.

Mark Milligan might have made it two nil in the 60th, getting onto a cross from the left by Petrovski, but his shot was blocked unwittingly by a defender.

McMaster worked his way into the box again in the 73rd but from just inside the box his shot gave Bolton time to weigh it up and turn the ball around the post. Crucial save number four, perhaps?

Then the gifted save for Bolton in the 76th.

Noel Spencer took a free kick, quickly, on the right and delivered the ball deep to Tomasevic on the left.

The cross was nodded on at the near post and arrived at the feet of Kwasnik, only a few yards out on the right,

Instead of drilling the ball fiercely, just inside the right post, the rookie striker elected to side-foot the ball, allowing ample time for Bolton to make the save.

Apart from a Nikolai Topor-Stanley header that went wide and some runs by David Carney Sydney FC were unable to trouble Central Coast, Petrovski's special first half magic aside.

This Coast team can only benefit from the return of Petrie, Hutchinson and Pondeljak, the latter whose late introduction in this game off the bench did not allow time for the team to draw fully on his creative powers.