Sydney Football Stadium, Saturday 1st November 2008.
Article by Michael Shillito
Sydney FC 3 Central Coast Mariners 3
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Football can be a game that poses more questions than it answers, and such was the case
at the Sydney Football Stadium when Sydney FC hosted the Central Coast Mariners. Two
questions come to mind from the game – how on earth did Sydney get a 3-0 lead, and then
how on earth did they manage to blow it?
The Mariners started the stronger, threatening to penetrate the Sydney goals, and only
some dogged defending by the Sydney backline and keeper Ivan Necevski kept them out.
But against the run of play it was Sydney who opened the scoring, when Mark Bridge
worked his way through traffic before a sweetly-times strike gave Danny Vukovic no chance
and cannoned into the top corner of the net.
Shortly afterwards both sides were temporarily reduced to 10 men after a sickening head
clash saw Sydney’s Beau Busch and Central Coast’s Pedj Bojic dazed and profusely
bleeding. Both were to leave the field for treatment, but returned to action together a few
minutes later.
But by then the tide had turned, and after outrunning the Mariners’ defence, Adam Casey
made his shot low and fast, and Vukovic was unable to keep it out.
The third, 10 minutes after half-time, followed a similar pattern. This time it was Northern
Irish midfielder Terry McFlynn who found some space before firing a long-range speculator
from the edge of the area. Sydney 3 Mariners 0, with the home side having all the
momentum. Moments after the restart, Stuart Musialik had a chance to add another but hit
the woodwork from point blank range; a miss that was to have deeper consequences that
anyone could have imagined at the time.
At 3-0 it looked safe. A chant, premature as it turned out, rang out around the ground that
“We are top of the league”. Aloisi replaced Brosque and Biddle replaced Casey, but neither
substitute was to have any impact on the game. On the hour there was jumping up in The
Cove, and the trademark “Oh When Sydney Goes Marching In” rang out. But by the time
the song was finished, the momentum of the match was about to shift.
Matt Simon got the first goal back when he got around the Sydney offside trap and fired a
shot home. At 3-1 it still looked good for Sydney; but suddenly at 78 minutes the Mariners
were back in the contest after a counter-attack set up Nick Mrdja with plenty of room to
move. And when just 3 minutes later Simon headed home an equalizer, despite Nick Mrdja
appearing to hold Sydney keeper Ivan Necevski’s jumper.
Suddenly both teams were back on level terms, and that’s how it stayed. It had been another high-scoring shootout;
maintaining the recent history between the two sides. The Mariners had the better of most stats – 10 more corners,
20 more inside opposition penalty areas, more shots at goal, and the bulk of possession. By maintaining the weight
of possession, eventually the Mariners were able to work their way back into a contest that stats alone indicate they
should have won.
The three long-range strikes by Sydney that got them out to the lead was to deny the Mariners that victory. But
despite those strikes, although the scorecard will forever show the match as a draw, the post-match sights of
Sydney FC dejectedly slumping to the ground while the Mariners celebrated with their supporters at the southern
end, left no doubt where the moral victory lay.