Central Coast Mariners got their 2013 Menpora Cup campaign off to the best possible start on Friday afternoon with a 2-0 victory over Sriwijaya FC at Stadion Si Jalak Harupat in Bandung.
Matthew Simon’s 36th minute header combined with Nick Fitzgerald’s 80th minute strike ensured Graham Arnold’s men recorded a comfortable victory over their opponents from Palembang in South Sumatra.
The Mariners were dominant from the outset against the 2012 Indonesian Super League Champions, with Socceroo Mitchell Duke making incursions into the Andalas Eagles’ backline as early as the second minute of play.
Sriwijaya custodian Teja Paku Alam was on his game in the early going, and he did well to deny Joshua Rose from teeing up a goal scoring chance seven minutes in.
Mile Sterjovski swung a ball in from the left after 13 minutes that Simon couldn’t direct on target, but the former East Gosford Rams man made no mistake in sending Central Coast one up roughly ten minutes before half-time. Latching on to another Sterjovski cross, Simon headed the ball beyond Alam to score the first goal of the tournament.
Arguably Sriwijaya FC’s best chance to score in the match came just two minutes after Simon’s opener. Hernan Djumafo twisted and turned in the box before striking at goal. Mariners’ goalkeeper Justin Pasfield, who had little to do in the first 45, reacted smartly to deny the powerfully built attacker.
Arnold’s men continued where they left off after the interval, controlling large chunks of possession and looking the side most likely to add to the scoring.
The hardworking Duke won possession from Alam eight minutes after the restart before laying a pass to Marcos Flores. Flores’ shot was blocked by the retreating Sriwijaya defence.
After the hour mark Arnold began to alter his charges in a bid to ensure the minutes of match play throughout the Club’s participation in the 2013 Menpora Cup are shared amongst his squad.
Michael McGlinchey was the first substitute introduced into the game and the diminutive New Zealand ace had an instant impact on proceedings. McGlinchey laid on a nice pass for Rose whose shot was well palmed away for a corner by Alam.
Fitzgerald replaced Duke in the 72nd minute and it would take the youngster just eight minutes to etch his name in Menpora Cup history. Fitzgerald fired home from inside the box after McGlinchey did well on the left following a long pass from Nick Montgomery.
Fitzgerald could have scored another with just minutes left on the clock, however his powerful shot following Hayden Morton’s cross from wide on the right flew well over Alam’s woodwork.
Central Coast Mariners Head Coach Graham Arnold was delighted with the work of his players in the first match of the eight-team international invitational competition.
“It was very good,” Arnold said. “Why we’re here is to try and get some good games in and it was a very good and competitive game. If there was one disappointing thing it was the lack of killer instinct in front of goal but we made the chances, and the hardest thing is to make chances. Once you start making them eventually the goals will come.”
“We’ve had a good six or seven weeks of hard work on the training pitch, our structures are coming together, our work is coming together, and Marcos (Flores) is starting to see the pictures and see the movement off the ball that we want, so I am very happy with that.”
While pleased with his squad at large, Arnold offered special praise to new recruit Storm Roux who dominated his marker down the right.
“I was over the moon with Storm Roux – I thought he was excellent at right back and is starting to get what we want and that’s exactly the same as what Josh Rose gives you on the other side. And I thought Marcel Seip showed today that he’s a real good acquisition.”
Arnold also acknowledged Sriwijaya FC for their effort in the match.
“You have to commend them because their season is finished and they’re playing in an end of season tournament. Their mentality was good and they kept on going,” he said.
Central Coast Mariners 2 (Simon 36’, Fitzgerald 80’)
Sriwijaya FC 0