Mariners claim last-gasp draw

Central Coast has stunned Sydney FC by coming back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 in a hugely entertaining six-goal thriller at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday night.

Central Coast has stunned Sydney FC by coming back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 in a hugely entertaining six-goal thriller at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday night.

In doing so, Sydney blew a golden chance to resume its position at the top of the Hyundai A-League.

Two wonder strikes from Sydney’s Mark Bridge and Adam Casey lit up the first half before Terry McFlynn’s stunning long-range effort in the 56th minute had the 18,251 fans on their feet.

Sydney’s Stuart Musialik missed a sitter in the 58th minute that could have made it 4-0 to the home side. It was a costly miss.

In just 18 minutes, Mariners striker Matt Simon pulled one back on 62 minutes and 14 minutes later sub Nik Mrdja nipped in to make it 3-2.

Then Simon with his second goal four minutes later equalised the contest at 3-3 to stun the home side.

In a tense final few minutes, Simon could have scored a hat-trick and won the game but had his shot blocked as the visitors came back from the dead in style.

The Mariners finished the stronger as Sydney held on for the point.

The sky blues started with youngsters Beau Busch and Anthony Golec in defence, the pair backing up after excelling last week in the 2-0 win over Melbourne Victory.

Mitchell Prentice partnered Golec in the centre with exciting Shannon Cole operating on the left.

Up front Alex Brosque began on the pitch while marquee striker John Aloisi was handed a bench role against his former team.

For the Mariners, an aerial assault seemed on the cards with coach Lawrie McKinna employing a three-man strikeforce of Matt Simon, Dylan Macallister and Sasho Petrovski.

McCallister got on the end of a couple of high balls in the Sydney box in the first few minutes to emphasise that danger.

Sydney soon worked its way into the game. Stuart Musialik’s low shot from the edge of the area flew just wide of Danny Vukovic’s post on 16 minutes.

Feisty Central Coast midfielder Mile Jedinak went into the book for cutting down Adam Casey minutes later as Sydney began to impose themselves on the contest.

And it was the home side which took the lead in spectacular fashion on 28 minutes.

Striker Mark Bridge found possession wide left before cutting inside and unleashing an unstoppable shot that rocketed into the top of Vukovic’s left hand corner.

It was his second goal in as many weeks and one of the best of the season.

Minutes later both sides were temporarily reduced to 10 men after Busch and Pedj Bojic were involved in a head clash.

But it was Sydney which took a two-goal lead shortly after courtesy of Casey. He celebrated his new two-year contract with a superb second goal.

After running at the bandaged Bojic he outpaced him and scooted towards the Mariners’ goal before unleashing a low shot to beat the outstretched hands of Vukovic.

On the stroke of half-time, Simon won another high ball in the box but a tame finish failed to trouble Ivan Necevski in the Sydney goal. And seconds later, the Mariners earned a corner and Paul O’Grady’s glancing header almost crept in on the far post.

But Sydney could have finished the contest right on the half-time whistle when Brosque was set free with just the keeper to beat. However, Vukovic denied the striker and in a superb double save stopped McFlynn’s follow-up shot from the edge of the box.

The Mariners began the second half desperate for a goal and they pressed Sydney back.

Necevski with an excellent save off a point blank header from Macallister denied the visitor and Terry McFlynn headed off his goal-line as the Coast piled on the pressure.

To emphasise that miss, the Northern Ireland midfielder found space outside the Mariners box to blast home a stunner minutes later to give Sydney a 3-0 lead on 56 minutes.

And Musialik missed a sitter when he followed up on a spilt save from Vukovic to hit the bar from six yards out. The Mariners made Sydney pay for that incredible miss.

Simon’s sixth goal of the season changed the complexion of the match at 3-1 after he’d sprung the Sydney offside trap.

John Kosmina brought on Aloisi for Brosque to stem the pressure while for the Mariners Nik Mrdja came on for Petrovski.

The Coast sub almost scored with his first involvement of the game following up on Macallister’s effort that was blocked by the excellent Necevski.

It was end to end stuff with both sides going for it but Sydney coach Kosmina was clearly agitated with the way his side had let in the opposition.

Two late goals to Simon and Mrdja had the visiting fans on the feet in a tense final stages in one of the best games of the season.

In the end, Sydney hung on for a point. The visiting fans’ cheers told the story.

Sydney FC 3 (Bridge 28′, Casey 39′, McFlynn 56′)
Central Coast 3 (Mrdja 77′, Simon 62′, 80′)
@ Sydney Football Stadium, Crowd: 18,251