Last time, it was a nine-goal thriller. This time, the crowd had to be content with five.
In another vividly dramatic Mariners-Sydney encounter at Bluetongue Stadium, Sydney FC snatched a 3-2 win in the 81st minute, as the Mariners again found a numerical advantage more of a hindrance than a help.
With returned Olympian Mark Bridge at the point of the attack and Alex Brosque – suspended last week – providing good support for Steve Corica just behind the forward-line, Sydney FC started brightly and scored a fine goal after only 6 minutes. Brosque outpaced a match-shy Nigel Boogaard on the Mariners’ left, and pulled the ball back across goal; Bridge could not make contact, but Steve Corica was there to finish coolly with his left foot.
Read the rest of the report after the jump…
The Mariners almost equalized immediately when Adrian Caceres was put through on the left by a lively Sasho Petrovski, but the former Melbourne winger shot straight at Clint Bolton. Matt Simon and Mark Bridge, at opposite ends, both had half-chances in the tenth minute as the game began to open up nicely.
The scores were leveled in the 13th minute. A simple long ball over the top was misread by the Sydney defence, and Simon stormed after it, made his way into the box, and was impeded by a combination of Robbie Middleby and Simon Colosimo. Referee Ben Williams made the dreaded signal.
Petrovski took the kick, and sent a good, low shot into the left-hand corner past his former team-mate.
The goal did not, however, affect Sydney’s confidence, and only a minute later they had regained the lead, with a goal of the highest quality. A sweet interpassing move between Corica, Brosque and Bridge ended with the latter holding the ball up by the left by-line: he prodded it back to Brosque, who skipped along the edge of the area before feeding Corica, unmarked, on the right. Sydney’s veteran, in superb form, dispatched it into the net past a vainly advancing Vukovic.
Lawrie McKinna moved Boogaard, who had looked well off the pace, into the middle, shifting Pedj Bojic to left-back. And despite a good chance for Brosque on 24 minutes, it was the Mariners who had the better of the rest of the half, with Ahmad Elrich and Caceres often switching flanks to good effect.
A good low cross from Elrich on 25 minutes was nearly deflected for an own goal by Jacob Timpano. Eleven minutes later, a free kick from John Hutchinson was headed just wide of goal, again by a Sydney defender, and in the melee following the subsequent corner Shannon Cole was obliged to clear the ball off the line with his chest.
Bridge missed a superb chance to make it 3-1 on 37 minutes. A breakaway move following a Mariners attack saw Corica and Brosque cleverly work the ball across to Bridge on the right: with an eternity to pick his shot, the former Newcastle stabbed wide of goal with his right foot.
The second half began with a “goal” for Petrovski ruled out for offside, and an excellent save by Danny Vukovic from Brosque as he rushed through on the left to connect with Mark Bridge’s through pass. In the next minute, the Mariners picked up two yellow cards for poor challenges, as Sydney appeared to have regained their composure.
Suddenly, on 66 minutes, came the Mariners’ equalizer, which had looked unlikely up to that point. A cross from the right reached Petrovski in the box: calmly controlling the ball on his chest, he swept it past Timpano with some ease, and buried a fine diagonal shot into the far corner of the net.
Worse was to follow for Sydney FC. Three minutes after the goal, a dreadful challenge by Stuart Musialik on Brad Porter earned the Sydney man a yellow card. Offering a four-letter aside on Ben Williams’ refereeing earned him a card of a darker hue, and Sydney were down to ten.
The Mariners pressed forward, as John Kosmina placed Brosque at the tip and moved Bridge back into midfield. Bojic’s shot was deflected to Caceres in the box on 71 minutes, but the latter could again only shoot straight at the goalkeeper. Bolton made a better save a minute later when Petrovski stormed through in the inside-right channel; the Sydney custodian was off his line very quickly to smother.
Cole, having another influential evening, almost latched on to a cutback from Alex Brosque on 78 minutes, but Andrew Clark was there to intercept. However, the man from Sydney Olympic was indeed to make his mark on the game, after a poor challenge on Corica by Boogaard just outside the Mariners area…
Last week, a late free kick from Cole against Melbourne evaded the wall but rattled against the post. This time, again he curved the ball over the wall, again he struck the post…but this time the ball dribbled into the goal.
Wild scenes of celebration from the Cove, as Cole rushed over to perform a somersault in front of his new fan club.
The Mariners gave their all in the final minutes, but it wasn’t enough. A header from Simon was well held by Bolton five minutes from time, and despite two more half-chances in injury time, one a header for substitute Nik Mrdja, one a volley from distance by Petrovski, Sydney held on for a precious three points.