Sydney overpower shell-shocked Mariners
By Corinthian (Paul Green):
Hyundai A-League – Season 10 – 2014/2015 – Round 15
7:45pm, Saturday 24 January, 2015 – Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (Travis Major 66′)
Sydney FC 5
(Marc Janko 16′, 47′, Chris Naumoff 18, Bernie Ibini-Isei 44′, Alex Brosque 72′)
Many expected Central Coast Mariners to go on with the work they had begun in their last match before the break, having beaten the more fancied Melbourne City 2-0 at Central Coast Stadium, when local rivals Sydney FC came to town.
Sydney FC had entered the break for the Asian Cup in some disarray, with four of their best players out for the season and only a short time span, albeit during the January transfer window, in which to fix their serious injury problems.
They’d signed relative unknowns, two French defenders, who had represented Senegal, Jacques Faty and Mickael Tavares and another younger Australian player, Robert Stambolziev, who did not make it to the team sheet at all on this occasion, due to international clearance delays.
With little else changed and Sydney FC in somewhat of the doldrums going into the match, a tight contest was expected as the time-honoured derby drew near.
But events in the week leading up to the game had changed everything and Sydney FC arrived extremely motivated, after personal exception had been taken, especially by former Mariners coach, Graham Arnold, to a promotional campaign for the match based around his club’s financial resources and by implication, it seemed, the coach’s own ‘cashed up’ status.
Those images galvanised Sydney FC into a performance that was truly overpowering for the shell-shocked Mariners, who were two down inside 18 minutes and 3-0 before half-time, with a possibly fourth chance spurned by Sydney’s Austrian striker, Marc Janko moments before the interval.
Central Coast coach, Phil Moss, had little to do with the events which had riled his former boss, during the week, but wanted to make no comment about that at all post-match, instead shouldering the blame for the 5-1 loss which finally eventuated.
Arnold, on the other hand, who burst into the press conference room by dramatically throwing fake Sydney FC bank notes into the air, as he jubilantly rushed to his seat, was far more vocal.
After alluding to the campaign which he said had provided huge motivation for him and his players, he went on to talk about his team’s showing in the match.
“I’m just proud of my players because we’ve been through a lot. It’s not easy for team mates when they see four of their mates go down with horrific injuries and it takes it toll psychologically. Thankfully the Asian Cup really gave us a good chance to recruit well and those two French/Senegalese boys are probably 60 or 70 percent fit and they were very good.
“They have lifted the standards in the whole group and taken our professionalism to a whole new level and that’s what you want from foreign players and hopefully that’s the way we can move forward.
“The break might have been bad for other teams, but we used it well. We gave the players one week off and then the next week we hurt them at training and really pushed them to run out games like that and Marc Janko is now settling.
“The performance was fantastic and I think we should have been four or five up at half-time.
“ (it was) disappointing to nearly concede another one or two on the counter, when we had a corner, but we’ll work on it. I spoke a lot about the senior players, but I really want to give a lot of credit to Gersbach 17, Naumoff 18, Calver 18, years of age. I don’t enjoy anything more than developing Australian kids.”
The two French-born newcomers, who have played for Senegal, had arrived only days earlier and settled in well as true professionals might be expected to.
Fady looked very cool on the ball, while Tavares, playing just in front of the back four, though nominated on the team sheet as one of the ‘back five’, was at ease from the opening whistle.
The younger players, Gersbach and Naumoff, as well as Calver, all played their part in a game where the home team simply failed to make their mark.
With senior players, Petkovic and Dimitrijevic, in superb control, the way was soon open for the flank players to pose problems for the Mariners.
A horror piece of defending by Josh Rose, who leapt in futile fashion when trying to cut out the first cross from the left by Gersbach, allowed Marc Janko to slide the ball home, through the legs of keeper Liam Reddy, after only 16 minutes.
Two minutes later the lead had doubled.
This time it was Calver, on the right,who managed to slip his marker, out near the touchline, before sending over a long cross to the far-post where youngster Naumoff showed his predatory instincts to steer the ball past Reddy in the goalmouth.
Sydney winger, Bernie Ibini, was a lively presence against his old club and was constantly seen running at the defence.
He parked himself just close enough to the backline to pounce, when Calver poked a ball through a needle-eye opening, going on to finish with a smooth, low finish just as half-time began to beckon.
It looked like might even be four goals to the good, soon after, but the marquee man, Janko, who has missed a lot of chances this season, somehow skied a shot from inside the six-yard box, with seconds remaining in the opening period, after the dynamic Gersbach had again got past his man down the left and sent over a delicious cross.
Soon after the re-start, with Mariners coach Moss sending on Nick Montgomery for Glen Trifiro, Sydney picked up where they had left off, exploiting some flat-footedness in the home defence to extend their lead two minutes in, after a mix-up between defender Zac Anderson and his keeper.
Janko, this time much more deadly, pounced and rifled the intercepted ball home.
The man who had been so cruelly exposed for the opening goal, Josh Rose, redeemed himself, somewhat, in the 66th by dashing away after a Sydney raid had broken own and galloped past a number of stunned Sky Blue players down the left to face Vedran Janjetovic close to goal.
Rose, who might have attempted a shot, was experienced enough to realise that he had a man arriving free on his right, substitute Travis Major and Rose slipped the former Blacktown Demons striker the ideal pass for the Central Coast man to tuck the ball away and reduce the deficit.
But not by much. After all, it was already 4-1 with plenty of time left.
Sydney FC were still without a few regulars, even with their new players on deck, Sebastian Ryall, Hagi Gligor, Pedg Bojic and Socceroo squad member, Terry Antonis, all being absent.
The visitors didn’t let up though, roared on by a season-high crowd, with a strong Sky Blue presence, netting a fifth in the 72nd when Ibini released Janko down the right.
It looked as if Janko might try and take on his man on the by-line to bring up his hat trick, but he unselfishly slid the ball across the face of goal for skipper Alex Brosque to finish smartly and end his own scoring drought.
Arnold had already hooked a tiring Tavares and soon after sent on veteran marksman, Shane Smeltz, for Janko, giving the home side no respite whatsoever.
With ten minutes to go the former much-lauded Central Coast coach, pulled off his other French newcomer, Faty, giving fit-again Matthew Jurman a long overdue outing.
The Mariners had been unable to find any way past the rock-solid Sydney defence, with Nikola Petkovic in full command, able supported by the newcomers and his two young wide-out defenders.
Mariners’ front men, Matt Simon and Mitchell Duke, battled away manfully and the introduction of the lively Major was at least one positive sign coming out of the game.
Unlike the match against Melbourne City where Trifiro had shone and the absent Isaka Cernak also played a key role, this one was definitely a step backwards, after the signs had all been there that the Mariners’ season might be rescued after a long time between wins and indeed, goals, had finally ended.
Now they have to take on Adelaide United at the same ground, in two week’s time, knowing that the Reds under their Barcelona-style coach, Josep Gombau, had just put seven past the Gosford-based team’s nearest neighbours Newcastle earlier in the day.
Moss was unable to explain the sudden change of fortunes.
“We had a good break and we trained well. We had a great session the day before the match and a good warm-up today.
Moss disagreed with a suggestion that the team was slow to get into stride.
“I thought we looked good at the start, in fact, but we made two shocking mistakes and we have to stop that happening again,” he admitted.
Moss was not prepared to be drawn into the discussion about the promotional campaign in the days leading up to the match.
“I don’t have anything to do with the advertising. My job is to coach and I take responsibility for that,” he said firmly.
“I have my views on the matter (the ‘cashed-up Arnie’ campaign), but they’re my personal views and I’m only going to talk about the game, today.
Sydney FC in red-hot form and with Antonis to come back, after so-far getting no game time in the Asian Cup, travel to Perth next and must be confident of getting a result on this form.
It also gives the new players more time to settle in and get fully fit.
Arnold had already said that both Faty and Tavares were no better than 70 per cent fit, but on what was seen in this game they’re going to prove huge assets for the much maligned Sky Blue defence and Sydney, who are back in the top-five again after this win and can probably go on to make the Finals without much further fuss.
The Mariners may struggle, however, as last-placed Western Sydney Wanderers have games in hand and might well become the major player in their final fifteen games, leaving only struggling Newcastle below the Central Coast club, based on current form,
Central Coast Mariners FC: 12. Liam REDDY (gk); 4. Jacob POSCOLIERO, 5. Zac ANDERSON, 25. Eddy BOSNAR, 3. Joshua ROSE; 7. John HUTCHINSON (c), 11. Nick FITZGERALD; 10. Adrian CACERES (14. Travis MAJOR 57′); 18. Glen TRIFIRO (8. Nick MONTGOMERY 46′), 9. Mitchell DUKE, 19. Matt SIMON
Subs Not Used: 30. Adam PEARCE (rgk), 2. Storm ROUX, 17. Richard VERNES
Yellow Cards: Joshua Rose 86; Red Cards: Nil
Coach: Phil Moss
Sydney FC: 20. Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk); 25. Aaron CALVER, 26. Jacques FATY (5. Matthew JURMAN 82′), 6. Nikola PETKOVIC, 16. Alex GERSBACH; 27.Mickael TAVARES (23. Rhyan GRANT 60′); 8. Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 11. Bernie IBINI, 14. Alex BROSQUE; 21. Marc JANKO (9. Shane SMELTZ 74′)
Subs Not Used: 1. Ivan NECEVSKI (rgk), 18. Peter Triantis
Yellow Cards: Mickael Tavares 35, Marc Janko 50, Rhyan Grant 79; Red Cards: Nil
Coach: Graham Arnold
Points and ratings
3. Milos Dimitrijevic (SFC)
2. Jacques Faty (SFC)
1. Alex Gersbach (SFC)
Referee: Jarred Gillett 8/10
Photo: BOTN archive, Central Coast Stadium – Lowenna Rappo