Central Coast Mariners have breathed new life into their season with a drought-breaking 2-0 win over a 10-man Melbourne City in Gosford on Sunday.
Two first-half goals to the lively Mitchell Duke ensured victory for the Mariners, snapping their 12-game winless league run going all the way back to the opening round of the season on October 11.
City’s forgettable afternoon was compounded 13 minutes into the second half when goalkeeper Tando Velaphi was sent off when he came flying out of his box and cleaned up Duke with a heavy challenge.
It was a crucial win for the Mariners who stayed eighth on the ladder and crucially just four points behind City who are sixth.
WHAT THEY SAID
"Before the game we had one word that we were mainly aiming to prove out there was desire and I thought all the boys really did it. I thought the last two games I've been building on my performances and today it was good to get some goals." - Mariners striker Mitch Duke
"It was a pretty poor first half. Second half we were disciplined but not good enough for the result today. No excuses, everyone had a short turnover. It's just disappointing to come into the break with a loss but we'll regroup and push on for the second half of the season." - City captain Patrick Kisnorbo
1-0 Duke (12’) – Glen Trifiro received the ball just outside the box, putting on a nice move to get around Aaron Mooy before threading a classy through ball to Duke, whose first touch took him between City’s centre-backs before finishing powerfully with a low drive across Velaphi into the far corner.
2-0 Duke (27’) – Ross Archibald’s miscued clearance was seized upon by Richard Vernes just inside the box. The Hungarian went down under a challenge but wasn’t prepared to sacrifice possession and despite being sprawled on the ground managed to poke a pass to Duke who let rip with a stinging shot from the edge of the box that gave Velaphi no chance.
In the final minute of the first half, Robert Koren picked out Mooy with a pin-point cross from the left. Mooy thought he had scored with his header from just six yards out but Liam Reddy pulled off a great reaction save from point-blank range, pushing the ball up onto the crossbar and out for a corner. He earlier produced a stunning fingertip save to keep out Koren’s curling shot which was destined for the top corner. They were two vital saves which preserved his team's two-goal lead at the break and went a long way towards them securing just their second win of the campaign
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Prior to this fixture the Mariners had managed just two goals in the first half of their 12 games this season. They doubled that tally before the half-hour mark of this match. It takes their extraordinary record against City (and previously Heart) to just one defeat in 14 head-to-head matches between the two clubs.
With confidence high following his two goals, Duke produced another moment of brilliance nine minutes before the break which got the crowd on its feet. Receiving the ball in traffic he twisted and turned around four City defenders before leaving them in his wake. His cutback was perfect for Anthony Caceres and only a timely block from Mooy denied what would have been a memorable goal.
Duke sprung the City offside trap as he chased down Caceres’ lofted pass. Thinking he could get to the ball first Velaphi came flying out of his box but Duke managed to get to the ball first, with the ‘keeper going through with his flying challenge and barrelling into the Mariners striker. Referee Peter Green had no choice but to send Velaphi off for denying an obviously goalscoring opportunity. With his side already trailing 2-0, going down to 10 men scuppered any hope City had of a comeback.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
With Connor Chapman left out by City, coach John van ‘t Schip called up Archibald but opted to play the youngster in the heart of defence and not at right-back where he has featured before earlier this season. The Dutchman decided to keep veteran Rob Wielaert - who has loads of experience at centre-back - out on the right but the move backfired with the Archibald struggling in the centre, hooked at half-time for Jonatan Germano.
THE FINAL WORD
Central Coast will go into the three-week break for the Asian Cup with some of their confidence restored and believing they might be able to make something of the season when they return. The Mariners’ first game back is against Sydney FC on January 24, the first time Graham Arnold will return to Gosford with his new club. City will be disappointed to have seen their four-game unbeaten run gone but will look to re-build during their training camp in Abu Dhabi. They will also have a certain Josh Kennedy available when they return with a home game against the Wanderers on February 1.
Central Coast Mariners: Reddy, Poscoliero, Anderson, Bosnar, Rose, Hutchinson, Caceres, Vernes (Fitzgerald 52’), Cernak (Sim 82’), Trifiro, Duke (Major 60’)
Melbourne City: Velaphi, Velaphi, Wielaert, Kisnorbo, Archibald (Germano 46’), Garuccio, Paartalu, Mooy, Koren (Redmayne 60’), Duff, Williams, Dugandzic (Brown 53’)
Scorers: Duke 12’, 27’,
Red cards: Velaphi 58’
Yellow cards: Poscoliero 31’, Brown 72’
Conditions: 31C, Hot
Attendance: 7,409 @ Central Coast Stadium