The Central Coast Mariners and Western Sydney Wanderers played out an enthralling 1-1 draw in front of 17,134 people at Gosford’s Bluetongue Stadium Saturday evening. Tom Juric’s 87th minute goal cancelled out Mitchell Duke’s 55th minute opener, in a result the match deserved.
Understandably both sides were rusty early and were unable to find a comfortable rhythm with possession frequently changing. Shinji Ono was a surprise substitute as Labino Haliti started as the lone striker, with Michael Bridge on the left for the away side.
Graham Arnold’s starting XI featured Zac Anderson who edged out new recruit Marcel Seip for a starting spot, while Nick Fitzgerald lined up at left midfield as a replacement for the absent Michael McGlinchey.
Once both sides settled it was the Wanderers who enjoyed the first decent chance of the match when a low cross inside the 6 yard box was deflected away by Justin Pasfield. The follow up shot was again saved by Pasfield with a third shot then being deflected over the bar.
Pasfield, in his 50th A-League appearance pulled off a number of quality saves throughout the game, was given plenty of confidence from the adoring home crowd. Arnold was happy with Pasfield’s first performance as the Mariners new number 1.
“You give people the opportunity, and Pas has worked hard” Arnold said.
“He’s been behind Mat Ryan for two years now and he’s learnt the Mat Ryan way, let’s hope he can continue that form”
The Wanderers enjoyed the majority of the possession in what was a tight, defensive game from both teams. Their best chance came in the 34th minute when a pinpoint cross from Poljak on the right missed Haliti’s boot at the far post by just inches. Luckily for the home side Zac Anderson was able to get a deft touch preventing the goal and keeping scores level.
A half time score line of nil all would be broken 10 minutes after the break when Mitchell Duke provided a quality finish to a delightful through ball from Marcos Flores. A failed clearance from Ante Covic fell at Josh Rose’s feet just outside the area, his pass to Flores allowed Duke to get in behind and place a delicate shot with the outside of his right boot past a spread Covic.
Flores who was tightly marked by the Wanderers was strong for the Mariners in the midfield, providing good distribution to the wings and also in close quarters. It was fitting that he would get the assist for the opening goal. Arnold was pleased with his new number 10’s performance.
“I thought Marcos was back to Marcos Flores that we all know, it was a fantastic ball to Dukey.” Arnold said.
“I think once the forward players get used to what he’s doing and get on the same wavelength to Marcos, then I’m certain we will get better.” He added.
Shinji Ono was introduced in the 61st minute and provided immediate impact with a short run down the right giving Bridge a failed opportunity to equalise.
Arnold replied not long after and in the 65th minute fan favourite Matt Simon made is long awaited return to Bluetongue Stadium with the home crowd giving him a rousing reception as he replaced Mile Sterjovski.
Despite the goal Western Sydney didn’t drop off in intensity and their persistence was rewarded in the 87th minute when new recruit and substitute, Tom Juric equalised for the reigning premiers. A beautifully whipped in cross from Hersi was finished well by Juric who got the better of Trent Sainsbury at the near post.
Both sides continued to push for a late winner with opportunities arising for each team; however the match would end 1-1 in a result the game deserved.
Post match Arnold was positive with the Mariners performance. He believes a shortened off season for the players led to fatigue late in the game for a number of his players.
“Overall I think it was a good point, we are disappointed we didn’t keep the three” Arnold said.
“We’re still a work in progress, but we are happy”
The Mariners now travel to Melbourne to face a Heart side that opened their season with a nil all draw against rivals Melbourne Victory.