Mariners the league chopping block

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 12

7:35pm, 26th December, 2015 (Boxing Day) – Sydney Football Stadium

Sydney FC 4
(Alex Brosque 11′, 24′ pen, Mickael Tavares 29′ pen, Jake McGing o.g. 82′)
Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (Harry Ascroft 35′)


Sydney FC returned to winning form, albeit against the current chopping-blocks of the competitions  the hapless Central Coast Mariners, recording a 4-1 victory, achieved through total domination early and then enjoying the luxury of turning off the taps for a good half-hour once well in front.

That’s how it appeared to some of Sydney FC’s Boxing Day spectators, at least, one of whom, a noted ‘Yabber-style’ sledger from the ‘outer’, urged the coach of the home team to ‘put a rocket up ‘em, Arnie!’ when they failed to maintain their tempo as the game began to wind down prematurely.

Sydney FC may have been without their main strikers, marquee Filip Holosko and Shane Smeltz, but in captain, Alex Brosque, whose style these days is more laid back, they have a man who can still hit the target with regularity.

That’s a far cry from his Marconi days – and hasn’t he been around a long time? –  when one Stallions’ supporter claimed he was a dud and couldn’t hit the proverbial barn door.

Having honed his craft overseas and given good service to Sydney FC in two separate stints, few could fault Brosque these days and his cameo this time was two early goals, one from the penalty spot, before leaving the scene after suffering a hamstring issue that may limit his game time over coming weeks.

Brosque knows his way around the football pitch and while he’s playing much deeper now than in his time as an out-and-out striker he still retains those instincts a good marksman possesses, the ability to snaffle up the crumbs when they fall.

Here he was perfectly positioned, largely through his own predatory instincts, to steer home a loose ball spilled by unfortunate Mariners’ keeper, Paul Izzo, after Andrew Hoole had tested the keeper from close-range.

Hoole had been involved in the lead-up work, in the eleventh minute, exchanging passes with Milos Ninkovic, following a run down the left, after stealing the ball from Mariners’ skipper, Nick Montgomery.

Even as they lined up in the tunnel before the game the out-of-sorts Central Coast side looked an unlikely lot, their body language betraying their  diffidence.

Sydney, needing a win to regain a foothold on the major spots on the ladder after a few mis-steps lately, looked much more likely lads and showed complete control of the proceedings right from the opening whistle.

Sydney had already forced two corners in the opening seven minutes, the first within 90 seconds, Rhyan Grant heading narrowly over the bar.

Two more corners followed after the hosts had taken the lead and the possession count in favour of the Sky Blues continued to climb.

Izzo was booked for dissent by referee, Ben Williams, as early as the 23rd minute, a sure-fire recipe for disaster, leaving him a sitting duck for any minor indiscretion.

Izzo had voiced his frustration when Williams awarded a penalty after Central Coast defender, Jake McGing, had impeded Ninkovic who’d burst through from the right well into the penalty area and the tumble was enough for the referee to point to the spot.

Brosque, on a confidence high, stroked the ball calmly past a despairing Izzo, but something about the Sydney FC skipper’s execution appeared amiss and he left the field shortly afterwards, feeling his troublesome hamstring once more.

The way he struck the ball lacked conviction, though there’s no certainty that the hamstring was to blame, but few were surprised after witnessing the kick when the captain was replaced by Matt Simon.

Simon had scored twice in the first fixture between these two teams in Gosford, against his former club, but while he toiled well here, he never had the same influence that he’d demonstrated during the first clash of the two teams.

As his frustration grew so did his physical approach to the game and he was involved in an off-the ball incident with McGing that was missed by the referee, but seen on television and later referred to the Review Committee, resulting in a one-game suspension for the imposing striker.

Meanwhile, however, there was more fun and games after Brosque had left the field, with a second penalty awarded, this time after promising youngster, George Blackwood, bore down on goal in the 28th minute after a good run down the right.

As might have been feared, with an early caution already under his belt, the Mariners’ keeper came out rashly to challenge for the ball and Blackwood took a big tumble.

Williams again pointed to the spot, reaching into his pocket for the anticipated yellow card, forcing Izzo off with the ensuing Red card and reducing the already under-powered Mariners to ten men.

On came rookie keeper, Thomas Heward-Bell, to face the penalty-kick, with youthful midfielder, Liam Rose, sacrificed to the team cause.

This time it was the experienced Mickael Tavares who stepped up and buried the ball past the debutant keeper.

The scoreline of 3-0 at that stage by no means flattered the home team, but facing ten men and already coasting, Sydney FC allowed the visitors to at least have a moment  to savour, a consolation goal in the 38th minute, not one the Sky Blues’ defenders will be proud of.

A well-flighted left-footed cross from the right by Matthew Sim, that eluded everybody except Mariners’ defender, Harry Ascroft, whose header found the roof of the net to bring it back to 3-1.

Heward-Belle had saved well from Blackwood at close-range n the 36th, so Central Coast had been buoyed by that outcome and began to fight back from that point on.

Two minutes into the second period Blackwood again burst through to test Heward-Belle, but once again the keeper was equal to the task.

The match began to see the Mariners gaining a far better grip on proceedings for much of the next half hour, with Nick Fitzgerald getting away and drawing Sydney keeper, Vedran Janjetovic, who came out well to deny the Mariners’ midfielder.

For Sydney their best chance had come from a Brandon O’Neill free-kick in the 52nd that clipped the Central Coast bar on its way out.

Sim had a shot blocked for the Mariners in the 56th during a period when Sydney seemed to slacken off, to an alarming degree.

They got back in the groove, however, over the concluding 15 minutes and a few chances came their way.

Hoole put wide a cross from Alex Gersbach in the 75th and then Sebastian Ryall had a header tipped over by the newcomer, Heward-Belle six minutes later.

By the 84th minute Sydney had extended their lead to 4-1, thanks to a Rhyan Grant cross from the right that McGing inadvertently deflected into his own net.

Sydney look like losing Brosque and will be without Simon when they travel to Melbourne to tackle City at the weekend.

They may have Shane Smeltz back after missing this Boxing Day fixture against the Mariners.

Holosko may also return and after giving youngster, Robert Stambolziev, some late game time here, coach Graham Arnold may well take some more youngsters to Melbourne for further experience, Blackwood almost certain to be among them.

The Mariners had Roy O’Donovan well taken care of by the well-drilled Sydney defence, but the Irishman will hope to get back to form on New Year’s Eve in Gosford in the traditional fireworks-night fixture at Central Coast Stadium.

Crowds have been well down this season, but the hope is for a big crowd on the festive occasion to propel the Mariners to perhaps achieve their second win of the season against Wellington Phoenix.

Fabio Ferreira, who was given half an hour off the bench against Sydney FC, is edging closer to full recovery , while Mitchell Austin, one of the success-stories of the Mariners’ season so far, should also be back in contention after missing the match at the Sydney Football Stadium.

Match details

Crowd:  12,0648

Sydney FC:  1. Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk);   23. Rhyan GRANT, 2. Seb RYALL, 5. Matt JURMAN, 3 Alex GERSBACH;  27. Mickael TAVARES, 13. Brandon O’NEILL , 7. Andrew HOOLE,  21. Filip HOLOSKO (8. Milos DIMITRIJEVIC 58); 14. Alex BROSQUE (c) (18. Matt SIMON 26), 24 George BLACKWOOD

Subs not used: 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (rgk), 19. Jacques FATY

Yellow cards: Alex Gersbach  48, Milos Dimitrijevic 60, Andrew Hoole 63; Red cards: Nil
Coach: Graham Arnold

Central Coast Mariners FC: 1. Paul IZZO (RC); 2 Storm ROUX, 5 Harry ASCROFT, 22 Jake McGING, 3 Joshua ROSE;   8 Nick MONTGOMERY (C), 16 Liam ROSE (rgk 40. Thomas HEWARD-BELLE 29), 10 Adrian CACERES; 11 Nick FITZGERALD (21 Michael NEILL 68), 15 Matthew SIM (7 Fabio FERREIRA 67); 9 Roy O’DONOVAN

Subs Not Used:  14 Daniel HEFFERNAN, 4 Jacob POSCOLIERO;

Yellow Cards: Paul Izzo 23, 28; Red Cards: Izzo 28
Coach: Tony Walmsley

Referee: Ben Williams
Assistants: Allyson Flynn and Andrej Giev; Fourth Official: Luke Withell

Points and ratings

Referee 7/10
Match 6/10
Pitch 8/10

Player points:
3. George Blackwood (SFC)
2. Mickael Tavares  (SFC)
1. Alex Brosque  (SFC)

By Corinthian