The highly-anticipated Grand Final rematch most certainly did not disappoint on Sunday evening, as Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne City played out a scintillating 3-3 draw at AAMI Park.
Angel Torres stole the show for the Mariners with a second half hat-trick, but it unfortunately wouldn’t be decisive for Mark Jackson’s side as City substitute Alessandro Lopane stole a point for the hosts in added time.
Jackson named an unchanged side from last Friday’s 4-0 thrashing of Western United. Storm Roux, Brian Kaltak, Jacob Farrell and Torres all came in fresh after being rested for Wednesday’s AFC Cup triumph in the Phillipines.
It was far from the ideal start for the Mariners though, as City took the lead less than two minutes in, a cross from the left took a wicked deflection which took the ball over Danny Vukovic and presented a tap in at the back post for Marin Jakolis to make it 1-0.
The Mariners responded well though, Miguel Di Pizio tested Jamie Young with a rasping drive from outside the box on 15 minutes, as we immediately pushed for an equaliser.
Vukovic came to Mariners rescue on 37 minutes with a smart save from close range to deny Jamie McClaren, after another deflected cross fell kindly to the City number nine, but his former Socceroo teammate was there to deny him a fifth A-League goal of the season.
Di Pizio had another half chance for the Mariners just before the break, as Torres’ looping cross dropped to the youngster in the box but he couldn’t poke his effort on goal.
The second half started as furiously as the first and this time it was the Mariners who struck early, Torres with a sublime volley to level the game after Roux’s cross was headed on by a City defender.
Clearly in the mood after doubling his A-League tally, Torres wasted no time in making it three for the season, netting with another beautiful finish across goal on 60 minutes from Josh Nisbet’s pass.
The Mariners would be pegged back almost instantly though as City responded with an equaliser of their own, the influential Tolgay Arslan coolly finishing into the bottom corner from inside the box.
On 82 minutes, the Mariners regained the lead as Torres secured his first Isuzu UTE A-League hat-trick in style. He started the move with a defence splitting pass for Tulio, then arrived in the box and sent multiple City defenders to the floor with his first touch before slotting past Young with his right foot.
33 minutes. One Player. THREE goals 🇨🇴🔥 Ángel Torres, take a bow!— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) December 17, 2023
A second-half hat-trick from the Colombian ensured @CCMariners split the points in a six-goal thriller!
Full highlights: https://t.co/emoFmNOxUh#MCYvCCM #ALM pic.twitter.com/pHP8If6Qxj
He thought that he’d claimed all three points for his team, as well as the match ball for himself, but this back-and-forth game took one final twist in added-time, as Lopane’s effort took a cruel deflection off Kaltak and found it’s way past Vukovic into the back of the Mariners net to make it 3-3.
Still the Mariners pushed for a winner but there would be no more goals in this thriller, Nisbet coming close for Mariners with the last kick of the game but he couldn’t keep his effort from distance down.
So the spoils were shared in Victoria, but there is not long to wait before another showdown with City, as we welcome them to Our Paradise just over a month from now on January 21st.
That is certainly one you don’t want to miss and you can get your tickets for that game, as well as our much looked-forward-to New Years Eve Double Header against Perth Glory, via Ticketek now!
But for now, attention turns to Thursday evening as the boys are on their travels once again, to take on high-flying Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium.