Honours even in a Bluetongue Thriller

The Central Coast Mariners and the Brisbane Roar have played out one of the games of the season, in the form of a six-goal thriller in tonight’s Hyundai A-League Week 22 encounter at Bluetongue Stadium. In the end the match finished at 3-all, but not before providing 90 minutes of twists and turns that had the Bluetongue faithful riding every minut

The Central Coast Mariners and the Brisbane Roar have played out one of the games of the season, in the form of a six-goal thriller in tonight-s Hyundai A-League Week 22 encounter at Bluetongue Stadium. In the end the match finished at 3-all, but not before providing 90 minutes of twists and turns that had the Bluetongue faithful riding every minute.

Goals from Adam Kwasnik, Matt Simon, and Patricio Perez not enough to end Brisbane-s long standing unbeaten run.

Mariners coach Graham Arnold felt that his side had let an opportunity slip.

“It was a fantastic game, but I thought we were the better side and should have gone on to win it,” said Arnold.

“Two dead moments killed us tonight which is better to happen tonight than in a semi (final). It was disappointing to concede from a corner and then a really soft throw in.

“Overall though I think our performance was fantastic. When the boys are sitting in the dressing room disappointed after a 3-all draw with the team leading the competition it shows how far we-ve come,” said Arnold.

Mariners captain Alex Wilkinson was proud of the efforts of his teammates after coming off a three-day break.

“We-re gutted at the moment to be honest, disappointed that we didn-t pick up the three points, but as Arnie said we can be proud of our performance. I thought the boys in midfield and upfront put in an enormous shift, especially backing up after the break,” said Wilkinson.

“We will gain confidence out of our performance, and I think we-ve learned that we can compete with anyone in the competition.

“The best thing for us to do now is put that behind us and look forward to the game against Newcastle on Sunday.”

The Mariners went into the match with an attacking mindset, and certainly had the better of the running in the opening exchanges. Patricio Perez fired off a warning shot five minutes into the match in a move that highlighted the Mariners desire to take the match to the table-topping Roar.

For all their dominance though, the Mariners could only manufacture one other chance to open the scoring, with Adam Kwasnik volleying over the bar after an intelligent flick on from Matt Simon. Brisbane have been renowned for an exceptionally quick passing game that breaks down opposing teams, however a committed Mariners defensive structure led by the veteran Dutchman, and an ever-reliable captain repeatedly frustrated the visitors usual fluent attack.

Indeed it wasn-t until the 18th minute that Brisbane fired off their opening salvo of the game with a shot from Kosta Barbarouses being deflected out for a corner. Five minutes later another corner to Brisbane would provide the first of what was a surge of turning points in what was a dramatic ninety minutes.

Thomas Broich whipped in a regulation corner, and Erik Paartalu somehow evaded everyone to head home the opener against the run of play.

From having next to no possession Brisbane found themselves on the attack two minutes later. A controversial free kick was awarded to the visitors, but Ryan, full of confidence after winning the NAB Young Footballer of the month for December pulled off an outstanding to thwart Broich-s efforts to double Brisbane-s lead.

The home side thought they had done enough to earn a penalty in the 32nd minute when a powerful header from Matt Simon appeared to have made contact with the hand of defender Matt Smith. The Mariners accepted the referee Peter Green-s decision and concentrated on the task at hand, to get back on level terms.

This positive approach to the game paid off in the best possible fashion when Adam Kwasnik netted his 9th goal of the campaign five minutes later. Oliver Bozanic who was at his dynamic best throughout out this match released Kwasnik with an absolute gem of a pass that wouldn-t have looked out of place on any pitch in the world. Fortunately for the Mariners, Bozanic currently plies his trade at Bluetongue stadium, and his skills were certainly appreciated by Kwasnik. Whilst it was the pass that made the goal, Kwasnik still had plenty of work having to evade opposing skipper Shane Stefanutto before he coolly slotted home. It was the finish of a man who is at the top of his game.

Just as Brisbane had the chance to double their lead so too did the home side. For the second time the Mariners had an appeal for a penalty waved away. Kosta Barbarouses fortunate to have not been adjudged to have had handled the ball.

The final chance of the half came in the twilight seconds when Perez went agonizingly close to giving his side the lead when a beautifully struck free kick clatter off the woodwork.

Football has a way of rewarding those who throw caution to the winds and who are prepared to back themselves. There is no better example of a player who backs himself, even in the toughest of situations than Matt Simon. Simon and Kwasnik who have formed a lethal combination this season showed tonight that they can play together.

In the 47th minute Simon notched up his 8th goal of the campaign, and arguably one of his most spectacular. A free kick from the ever-dangerous Perez floated in the air perfectly for the marksman to throw his boot at the ball, and casually loop it into the goal.

Keen to capitalize on their advantage, Oliver Bozanic went in search of his first goal of the campaign. His shot was well saved by Brisbane ‘keeper Michael Theoklitos, much to the Central Coast-s product chagrin.

The Mariners had another chance to net a decisive third goal when Josh Rose put in a cross that was too good for everyone, and ran harmlessly over the byline.

As was the case in the first half, Brisbane netted a reply against the run of play to again draw level. This time Thomas Broich launching a strike that caught the Mariners off guard in the 65th minute.

At 2-all the match was setup for a grandstand finish. Like a tennis match the advantage would swing one way and then the other. First to benefit was the home side.

Another probing run in the 73rd minute by Rose was brought to a shuddering halt by a challenge from Milan Susak. Referee Green had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot, before showing a red card to Susak for a second bookable offence.

It was the Argentine Perez who would step up to take responsibility, and the master of the spot-kick slammed home the shot in front of a boisterous home crowd.

With a one-goal lead the Mariners were about to learn the lesson that every opponent of the Roar in the last 21 weeks has learned, you can never write them off.

Substitute James Meyer launched a thunderbolt from thirty yards in the 79th minute that rippled the back net bringing his side back to 3-all. Even the Mariners faithful applauded what was an exquisite display of skill from the Brisbane player.

The amount of twists, turns and subplots this game had across the 90 minutes meant that there was always going to be late drama. Ryan again pulled off a fantastic save to deny Broich, which was the closest either team got until stoppage time.

Matt Simon went within inches of being the hero but Luke Devere somehow cleared his powerful header off the line. Keen to write their own ending to the script, Brisbane went close just thirty seconds later but Barbarouses fired over from close range.

Despite the amount of entertainment on show, Graham Arnold summed it up succinctly following the devastating floods ripping through Queensland this week.

“Football has taken a back seat today, the floods have proven to us that this is only a game of football,” said Arnold.

The Mariners next match of the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 season will be against Newcastle Jets at Energy Australia Stadium this Sunday, 16 January. Kick-off is at 5:00pm AEDT.

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 3 (Kwasnik 37-, Simon 47-, Perez (pen) 74-)
Brisabane Roar 3 (Paartalu 23-, Broich 65-, Meyer 79-)

Central Coast Mariners: 20. Mathew RYAN (gk), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 10. Patricio PEREZ (22. Mustafa AMINI 84-), 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matt SIMON, 23. Adam KWASNIK (2. Daniel McBREEN 84-).

Subs not Used: 30. Paul HENDERSON, 7. John HUTCHINSON.

Yellow Cards: Bojic 59-
Red Cards: None

Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2. Matthew SMITH, 3. Luke DEVERE, 4. Shane STEFANUTTO (c), 6. Erik PAARTALU (21. James MEYER 74-), 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Massimo MURDOCCA (18. Luke BRATTAN 74-), 9. Jean Carlos SOLORZANO (12. Matthew MUNDY 81-), 17. Mitch NICHOLS, 22. Thomas BROICH, 23. Milan SUSAK.

Subs not Used: 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk).

Yellow Cards: Paartalu 17-, Barbarouses 45-, Theoklitos 73-, Nichols 90-
Red Cards: Susak 73-

Referee: Peter GREEN
Crowd: 7,312 at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford.