On Saturday night at Coopers Stadium, Adelaide United hosted the Central Coast Mariners in the first ever Pride Game.
Mark Birighitti saved Craig Goodwin’s first half penalty and gave his team momentum which led them into a first half lead from the boot of Béni Nkololo.
A second half double from the Reds saw them take all three points despite the Mariners creating enough chances to win the game on more than one occasion.
Nick Montgomery named one change from Tuesday’s match against Melbourne City, with Marco Ureña coming in for Moresche, and Lewis Miller overcoming a gash on his foot, keeping the same back four for the third match in a row.
As both teams began to land blow by blow on each other, it would be the visitors who had the first chance with German Nicolai Müller fielding an attempt from the edge that floated wide and getting a second chance moments later which stung the palms of Joe Gauci who did well to save low to his left.
As the Mariners looked to turn the screw, Adelaide United were given the chance to take the lead as Jacob Farrell clipped Lachlan Brook in the box and Alex King awarded a penalty.
Craig Goodwin stepped up to take the spot kick but his stuttering attempt was met with a strong dive from Mark Birighitti to his right, plunging to save from 12 yards for the second time this season.
Following this, the momentum was with the Yellow and Navy and they very nearly took the lead from the head of Jason Cummings who couldn’t steer his effort toward goal after the flick on from Costa Rican Ureña.
The Mariners wouldn’t have to wait long for the lead however, as Cummings was involved again, this time bringing the ball down brilliantly from height, setting up Béni Nkololo inside the box who’s first time strike raced past Gauci and into the bottom corner for a 1-0 lead.
As both teams came back out for the second half, the hosts spurned on with the Pride occasion and they would fortunately find the equaliser after a goal-line scramble found it’s way to Hiroshi Ibusuki after Birighitti punched clear, Dan Hall blocked then received a knee to the stomach, and Lachlan Brook’s shot deflected to the Japanese import who volleyed into an un-guarded net.
With Nkololo’s industrious running on the right, the Mariners almost found themselves back in the lead as Bozanic’s free-kick on the edge deflected out for a corner and the visitors continued to press hard for the go-ahead goal.
Dan Hall was as impressive as ever at the back denying the hosts of any dangerous efforts and soon the Mariners found themselves on the front foot with Nkololo working the ball into space inside the box with some fancy footwork, but his strike floated over the top of the bar to the frustration of the small pack of travelling Mariners support.
Lewis Miller would next find space inside the box and his drilled effort drifted inches wide of the far post, which would have just reward for the Australian’s consistent performances of late.
With both teams looking likely to settle for a point, for the 5th time in the last six games, the Mariners conceded a stoppage time goal, this time to 16-year-old Nestory Irankunda who fired in from a tight angle to the delight of the home support.
It was a case of what could have been once more for the Mariners who would currently be sitting 8th on 17 points had they not conceded late in those games, and instead find themselves tied on 11 points with Perth Glory and Brisbane Roar at the foot of the table.
In what is becoming an increasingly important game, the Mariners will next be in action when they host Brisbane Roar at home next Saturday, kicking off at 5:05pm.