Final five minutes gives hope for future

Gianni Stensess of the Central Coast Mariners contests the ball against James Donachie of Melbourne Victory during the round 14 A-League match. Photo: Ashley Feder/Getty Images

[A-League] It’s been 204 days since their last A-League victory, but the Central Coast Mariners snatched a win against Melbourne Victory in the final five minutes of their 2019/20 season, thanks to a brace from youngster, Dylan Ruiz-Diaz.

Having already locked in their fourth wooden spoon in five seasons, the Mariners trailed 1-2 in the 85th minute of the match at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Monday night (Aug 3), following two goals from Melbourne star, Marco Rojas.

Rojas’ first goal came from an uncharacteristic error from Mariners’ keeper, Mark Birighitti, while his second was the result of pure individual brilliance in the goal square.

In a very high-tempo encounter, the Mariners were denied an opportunity early when the ball appeared to clearly deflect off a Victory hand in the box.

Veteran Matt Simon had two near misses, one from a penalty and the other from a long, looping cross from the experienced Jack Clisby.

It was not experience however, but rather youth and speed that ultimately shifted the balance.

With five minutes of regular time left, a deft pass from Tommy Oar found the 19 year old Ruiz-Diaz in space on the edge of the box.

Diaz-Ruiz slid past the Victory defence before punching the ball into the top left-hand corner of the net.

Four minutes later, Ruiz-Diaz again found himself on the end of pin-point pass from midfielder Milan Duric and slotted the ball past the Victory keeper to snatch the win for the blue and yellow.

While the win does little to arrest the slide in the Mariners’ fortunes this season, it does come after two draws, having had several losses before that, showing a good trend in the right direction.

The strong performances of youngsters like Ruiz-Diaz, Sammy Silvera, Josh Nisbett and Lewis Miller since the season resumption has sewn seeds of hope for 2020/21.

Ironically, the last Mariners win came from a late goal against Melbourne Victory in January.

Mariners’ Coach, Alen Stajcic, said after the game that it had been a disappointing season.

“Tonight’s win doesn’t take the pain away from a season where we finished on the bottom again.”

“[but] The fact that we can beat a massive juggernaut like Melbourne Victory two times in a season is a feather in our cap.”

Ross Barry