Gallant Mariners fall to the Roar

The Central Coast Mariners will take plenty of heart into next Saturday’s return leg of their Major Semi Final tie with Brisbane Roar, despite a 2-nil loss in tonight’s opening leg at Bluetongue Stadium.

The Central Coast Mariners will take plenty of heart into next Saturday-s return leg of their Major Semi Final tie with Brisbane Roar, despite a 2-nil loss in tonight-s opening leg at Bluetongue Stadium.

Two goals in twenty minutes in the second half were enough to give the Roar the advantage going into the second match, but not before the home side created a plethora of chances.

Graham Arnold couldn-t fault the effort and commitment of his players, but could only lament how not taking chances can hurt in big games.

“It was a game of chances. We had more then they did in the first half in particular. In big games you have to convert the chances you get. They were just more ruthless in front of goal,” said Arnold.

“It was frustrating we did move the ball to where it needed to go but our finishing let us down. It-s Brisbane you can-t afford to slacken off at anytime against them, because they will find a way to punish you.

“They-re a very good side.”

Always keen to look for positives, Arnold felt that his charges can take confidence out of their performance, particularly their ability to cope with the rapid interchange of passes that Brisbane prefer to employ.

“At the end of the day what we can take out of the game is our performance. The boys can be proud of the effort they put in, and they-re disappointed obviously. The game could-ve gone differently if we took those chances, but the two sucker punches really hurt us.

“For the most part I thought we dealt with the Brisbane attack quite well,” said Arnold.

With so much riding on the match, both sides were content to start cautiously. The fluency and crispness that has been the trademark of both the Mariners and the Roar throughout the campaign wasn-t on display in the opening exchanges. Both sides were understandably nervous, but the opening shot of the game from Mitch Nichols in the ninth minute had an instant calming effect.

The home side launched their own opening attack from the resulting goal kick. Patricio Perez provided an exquisitely timed cross for the returning Matt Simon. Simon tried his best to turn the ball inside the back post, but the angle was just too tight for the marksman to capitalize on.

Pedj Bojic turned in one of his most dominant performances in the first half of the match. The energetic right back was involved in a tense tussle with Shane Stefanutto and got the better of him on several occasions. In the 17th minute, one forward run forced Roar custodian Michael Theoklitos into a smart save, when Bojic-s long-range strike dipped viciously.

Brisbane was starting to get into its groove, and it was only a brilliant save from Mat Ryan who prevented Kosta Barbarouses from getting the opener. The rookie ‘keeper threw himself in front of the Kiwi attacker, in an effort to thwart the cross from Stefanutto.

Despite the flurry of chances, the match was mainly played in midfield. The wily Perez, and the experienced John Hutchinson were content to play a patient game, biding their time before releasing the two-pronged striking duo of Matt Simon and Daniel McBreen.

The turnovers were mounting at both ends of the pitch, much to the frustration of both Arnold and his counterpart Ange Postecoglou. Neither side could inflict maximum damage when they received such cheap ball. For the Mariners, Simon blasted an attempted cross wide, while Brisbane skipper Matt McKay fired over the bar.

Frustrated at not being able to take advantage of a mountain of possession Kiwi international Michael McGlinchey set about taking matters into his own hand. The dynamic midfielder stepped and weaved between three defenders before unleashing a curling strike that cannoned off the back post and into the path of Oliver Bozanic, who was unable to steer a shot in past Theoklitos.

Ryan again demonstrated his commitment for the cause when he sprinted off his line to deny Ivan Franjic. It was an intelligent save from the ‘keeper, and meant that the Mariners would keep their net intact in the first half.

Alex Wilkinson showed the versatility of his game by fashioning the last chance of the half in the fading seconds. Sensing that the Roar had committed too many men forward, he calmly picked out Simon with a terrific pass.

Simon was quickly set upon by a hungry defence, and the two teams gratefully accepted the respite of the sheds with first half honours even.

Brisbane came out and immediately took the game to the home side in the second half. Henrique was able to seize a loose ball and evade the Mariners defence, but was unable to complete the movement after taking the wrong option.

If that was the warning sign, the Mariners unfortunately failed to heed the notice. McBreen put Hutchinson under pressure when he telegraphed a pass on the halfway line in the 52nd minute. McKay didn-t hesitate and fed the ball to Barbarouses who steadied himself, before calmly slotting the ball home.

Brisbane had the lead, but it didn-t dishearten the Mariners who enjoyed a strong period of possession deep in Brisbane territory manufacturing successive corners. Desperate to redeem himself, McBreen picked out Rose with a beautifully timed pass that gave the left back acres of room. The flying Dutchman tried his best to get his side on level terms out leaping his marker from a corner, but the mass of bodies behind the ball meant that his effort was in vain.

The Mariners best chance of equalizing came in the 62nd minute when they hit the post twice in the one movement. Perez released McBreen whose initial shot cannoned into the back post before Simon, following up on an acute angle, hit the same piece of woodwork.

It was turning into that kind of night for the home side, and McKay made the pay with interest in the 73rd minute. After intercepting a pass the Brisbane captain fed Barbarouses who pressed forward. The youngster then duly repaid his captain by providing a lofted cross that McKay sent spinning past a luckless Ryan with a glancing header.

Down 2-nil the Mariners could be forgiven if they chose to turn their thoughts turn to the return encounter next Saturday, but that just wouldn-t be the Mariners way.

First Patrick Zwaanswijk pulled the trigger from distance, forcing Theoklitos into a save. Arnold threw his youngest player into the attack, and Mustafa Amini, the man with the most recognizable hair on the Central Coast, also tried his luck to no avail.

The Mariners continued to take the game to the competition favourites, but in the end were unable to wear them down.

A 2-nil defeat at home doesn-t reflect the closeness of the contest, and the Mariners can take plenty of heart into their next match in Brisbane.

“We-re going to go for it, absolutely. Brisbane are a tough team at home. This is the advantage of coming second, we get two bites at the cherry,” said Arnold.

As they say in finals, anything can happen.

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 0
Brisbane Roar 2 (Barbarouses 52-, McKay 73-)

Central Coast Mariners: 20. Mathew Ryan (gk), 2. Daniel McBREEN (23. Adam KWASNIK 64-), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON (8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS 66-), 10. Patricio PEREZ, 11. Oliver BOZANIC (22. Mustafa AMINI 78-), 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matt SIMON.

Subs not Used: 30. Paul HENDERSON (gk), 17. Chris DOIG.

Yellow Cards: Zwaanswijk 65-, Bojic 88-
Red Cards: None

Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2. Matthew SMITH, 4. Shane STEFANUTTO, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 6. Erik PAARTALU, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10. HENRIQUE (9. Jean Carlos SOLORZANO 65-), 15. Matt McKAY (c), 17. Mitchell NICHOLS (8. Massimo MURDOCCA 65-), 22. Thomas BROICH, 23. Milan SUSAK.

Subs not Used: 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 12. Matthew MUNDY, 14. Rocco VISCONTE.

Yellow Cards: Henrique 54-
Red Cards: None

Referee: Matthew BREEZE
Crowd: 10,166 at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford.