The Central Coast Mariners have claimed a brave point away from home against ladder leaders, Sydney FC, thanks to a first half penalty goal by Blake Powell, that was cancelled out by a Bobo second half header.
A 1-1 draw against the champions sees the Mariners claim four points from a possible six against Sydney this season, a feat only achieved by the Yellow and Navy, who are still the only team to defeat Graham Arnold’s Sky Blues this season.
It was a crucial point earned by Paul Okon’s Mariners, who now move into the seventh spot, heading into back-to-back home games against Brisbane Roar (8th) and the Western Sydney Wanderers (6th).
Captain, Alan Baro, claimed his second consecutive man-of-the-match award for his heroics at centre back alongside the equally impressive Antony Golec.
It was an end-to-end first half where the Mariners took an early lead after Kwabena Appiah used his blistering pace to draw a penalty from Andrew Redmayne.
It was former Sydney FC man, Powell, who stepped up to the spot and gave his side the lead.
The excitement of the first half continued with both teams going for broke in an attack at Allianz Stadium.
Time after time, Appiah was the go-to man for the Mariners’ attack, who created space for himself on the right and delivered a number of balls into the Sydney FC area.
On the left, Lachie Wales did the same and linked up well with returning left-back Josh Rose, to cause headaches for the Sydney back four.
Wales had a prime chance to double his side’s lead with the last kick of the first half when a perfect ball came into the box from Powell.
Wales hit it the first time and looked certain to score, but a bobble before the shot sent his effort over the crossbar.
For the home team, their highlight came just before the end of the first half, when a cross hit the head of Bobo.
The Brazilian’s header looped into the net, but he was flagged for offside.
With both teams threatening the scoreboard in the dying stages, the Mariners hit the break with a 1-0 lead, shaping up for an exciting second half.
Appiah picked up where he left off, this time on the left wing.
He created the first chance of the second half, but the shot was deflected for a corner.
Then in the 61st minute, the Mariners were made to rue their missed chances when Adrian Mierzejewski found the head of Bobo in the box, who made it 1-1.
The second half wasn’t as fast paced as the first, but both sides managed half chances.
Neither of them could find a winner in the end.
The Yellow and Navy took the game to Sydney FC away from home and fought until the final whistle.
The away supporters and Mariners players thought that they had earned a penalty when Alan Baro was kicked in the head in the box, but the referee called play on.
Danny De Silva and Peter Skapetis came on as second half substitutes to create a number of chances, opening the game up, but the Mariners just couldn’t find the winner.
The Mariners finished the game by the holding majority of the possession in the dying stages, moving the Sydney FC back four from side-to-side, but were forced to settle for a draw.
Full attention now turns to Saturday, January 27, at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, against Brisbane Roar.
“For us, our approach doesn’t change regardless of who we play,” Head Coach Mr Paul Okon said.
“Sometimes for unknown reasons you just execute it better against a certain opposition,” Mr Okon said.
“We know that Sydney FC are a great side and if we come here and show them that, then we know it’s going to be a long evening,” he said.
“We came here, we were brave, we knew that they would come after us and press us hard, but we made a point all through the week of showing responsibility and playing through the press because we knew that once we could do that, then we’ve got some weapons up top.
“If Lachie’s shot goes in, that potentially could have seen us leave here with three points, even though there was a half to play.
“I’ve seen bigger and more famous players than Lachie Wales miss those types of opportunities.
“The fact that he can get himself in those positions is really encouraging.
“When you play young players, they play without fear, and that’s how Lachie played tonight.
“I thought he was outstanding.
“We’re disappointed actually, which is a good thing.
“It shows where the club is at, at the moment, and the steps it wants to take.
“Even though we drew the game, we feel that we should have got a win.
“In round six and again tonight, we were great.
“Alan Baro and Antony Golec were outstanding.
“You can’t come here and not have your back four perform the way they did tonight.
“It’s certainly positive, moving forward, knowing that we can defend like that when we need to.
“Our midfield’s not bad as well.
“It doesn’t surprise me.
“I’d take Tommy as my midfielder any time.
“Jacob Melling has been superb since he came in.
“They knew they were going to battle hard because Brillante and O’Neill are the legs for Sydney FC.
“At times, they are the difference, because they do a lot of work.
“It was a big challenge for our two sixes to deal with it, and again, I thought they stepped up, and when they got on the ball, they really drove us forward.
“There’s certainly belief in our football team that we can win more games, but right now, each week that we don’t get three points, it just makes it that little bit harder to think about what possibly could be after 27 rounds.
“A team can’t come here and play like we did and not have belief and confidence.
“It’s small steps for us, we should be winning more football games.
“We’re a football team that can go anywhere, whether it’s home or away, and play the way we want to play and entertain,” Okon said.
Media release, Jan 19
Tyson Scott, Central Coast Mariners