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Central Coast Mariners 1 – Sydney FC 5

Central Coast Mariners 1 – Sydney FC 5

Central Coast Mariners 1 – Sydney FC 5
At a few minutes before 6 p.m. on November 5, 2005 in Gosford, an unusual phenomenon was observed; a solid mass of sky blue came tumbling down from the railway station towards the Central Coast Leagues Club, terrifying locals with its co-ordinated, irresistible noise.

The wave of solid Cove came to a halt at the Kendall Bar, our old stamping ground. Here it was that Sydney FC’s first devotees met before watching the team, in its first competitive outing, down the Queensland Roar 3-0; next week those same fans, with a few more added, saw Littbarski’s boys topple the Mariners 1-0 in the WCC qualifying final.

During the pre-season tournament, we went one better, leaving the Central Coast Stadium with a 2-0 win to celebrate.

It was emphatically a case of third time lucky tonight.

The night’s fun began, as expected, at the Kendall. The Cove had turned out in such impressive numbers that the Mariners, initially stunned into submission, were on the receiving end of much of the pre-game exchange of derogatory chants. Credit where it’s due, however; the Sydney refrain of “We’re so rich it’s unbelievable!” was countered by a perfectly reasonable request from the Mariners to shout them a beer or two…

The Cove continued to dominate the decibel count inside the stadium. The Central Coast boys were pitifully outnumbered, and the familiar strains of “Hey Jude” rang out majestically across the stadium five minutes before kickoff, drowning out the yellow-clad Bay 16 residents completely. The Cove only stopped to honour the late Johnny Warren, whose passing one year ago was acknowledged with a singular lack of taste by the ground MC.

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The match itself was effectively decided as early as the ninth minute. After some desultory early exchanges, a misplaced back-header from Michael Beauchamp put Dwight Yorke clean through on goal. As Yorke advanced, pausing to control the ball, Beauchamp clattered into him from behind.

Under the draconian “last-man” law, the referee had no choice but to dismiss the Mariners’ key defender. The infringement had occurred inside the box as well, and Yorke made no mistake with the penalty as Danny Vukovic naively dived to his right before Yorke had struck the ball.

One goal and one man down after ten minutes…no wonder the Mariners played like a team in shock for the following quarter of an hour.

Within four minutes, in fact, Sydney went further ahead, thanks to a marvellous free kick from Ufuk Talay. The blond midfielder had shown ample evidence of his dead-ball prowess against the Jets, with a sweet strike which had just sailed over; this time, after Corica had been fouled twenty yards from goal, Talay’s kick flew past Vukovic’s left hand and into the top corner.

The one-way traffic continued, with Talay and Carney combining impressively to set up Steve Corica for a chance at the far post. Then came surely the finest team goal Sydney have scored thus far in the A-League.

Yorke began the move, with a nicely-weighted pass into the inside-left channel for Steve Corica to run on to. Corica’s floated cross was nodded back expertly by Carney at the far post, for Petrovski to apply a smart finish.

Sydney FC were full of confidence; the sight of Iain Fyfe briefly occupying a central striker’s position following the third goal was a fair reflection of the team’s mood. The Cove, too, were in magnificent voice; even a bungled bicycle-kick from Corica on 31 minutes was greeted with a laugh and a cheer.

Gradually the Mariners began to settle, and towards the end of the half they were posing some questions of the sometimes uncertain Sydney defence. John Hutchinson, eluding the marking of Timpano, forced a save from Bolton on 34 minutes, and just afterwards Stewart Petrie too had a reasonable chance.

Dean Heffernan had been bullocking his way down the left to occasional effect, and it was one of his muscular runs that eventually produced what would turn out to be a consolation goal. With Packer momentarily stuck upfield, Heffernan ploughed down the wing and crossed neatly for Hutchinson to head past Bolton. For once, the Cove was in danger of being outsung by the home fans.

At half-time, however, their spirits were lifted by a visit by the popular Walter Bugno, and by Sydney FC’s suspended midfielder Terry McFlynn. The Ulsterman spent a happy few minutes mingling with some even happier fans…a moment for the Cove faithful to cherish.

Although the Central Coast side played with admirable spirit in the second period and had the visitors on the back foot at times, Sydney FC rarely looked in serious danger of conceding again. Corica and Petrovski (for Sydney) and Wayne O’Sullivan (for the Mariners) failed to make the most of half-chances early in the second half; Carney, working tirelessly as always, made another chance for Petrovski soon before finding himself in front of goal in an inviting position; the shot, however, fell to his weaker right foot, and flew wide.

He would have the chance to use his renowned left foot to great effect a couple of minutes later, however. A diagonal run towards the left-hand side of the Mariners’ box, and Carney was finally able to put in a cross from the left. It fell to the feet of Petrovski, who bundled the ball past Vukovic.

After a period of Central Coast pressure, during which Robbie Middleby came on for his traditional ten-minute run (Zdrilic had already replaced a tiring Yorke), Carney provided another killing pass, and Petrovski provided another killing finish, to complete his hat-trick. 5-1 it stayed.

All that remained was for the sky-blue throng to give Gosford a final singing lesson back at the railway station, before the 10:44 heaved onto the platform. 5-1 to the Sydney boys…

Sydney FC: Bolton; Packer (Middleby), Timpano, Fyfe, Ceccoli; Carney, Talay, Bingley, Corica; Petrovski (Rudan), Yorke (Zdrilic).

by Mikey

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