Late Velupillay header sinks Mariners’ impressive AAMI efforts

On Saturday evening at AAMI Park, the Central Coast Mariners locked horns with Melbourne Victory in the first meeting between the two sides since the FFA Cup Final.

The first half began much like the FFA Cup Final in that both teams cancelled each other out.

After large spells of Mariners possession and pressure, the telling blow would come late on from Melbourne Victory with substitute Nishan Velupillay heading home at the back post from the cross of Chris Ikonomidis giving the hosts a 1-0 victory. Late hearbreak once again for the Central Coast.

Jacob Farrell challenges for the ball

At the beginning of the contest, the eyes were on Mariners number four Josh Nisbet who made his 50th Isuzu UTE A-League appearance and began in his usual quick and sharp manner, posing a danger to Jason Davidson at left back for Victory.

The Mariners started the better of the two sides and had the opening shot in anger at Ivan Kelava’s goal from the boot of Marco Ureña, however it floated wide of the upright and left the Victory defence untroubled.

As Victory built into the match with a corner that was scrambled clear from the Mariners, it would be the visitors who would have the ball in the net, however it was ruled out for offside.

The ball was worked from the right into the centre and Cy Goddard’s strike that lacked conviction was helped onto goal from Ureña, his finish cleverly snuck under Kelava, but the flag was raised, and the scores remained level.

Minutes later it was Victory’s turn to have a goal ruled out for offside, this time a lengthy VAR delay halted the outcome while it appeared a simple decision to the naked eye. Eventually the correct decision was made and both teams continued about the half.

Referee Adam Kersey was in the spotlight following the VAR decision that took around four minutes, and found himself there again when A-League milestone man Josh Nisbet looked to find Ollie Bozanic unmarked on the edge of the box, however when it appeared he would run onto the ball and strike at goal from an area he is so dangerous from, the man in the middle accidentally blocked the captain’s run, much to the frustration of all involved in Yellow and Navy.

Ollie Bozanic had space on the edge of the box but was blocked by the whistleblower

Lewis Miller covered well late into the half as he made up many yards to support the strong defensive pairing of Kye Rowles and Dan Hall and with both sides standing tall defensively, the scores were level at the break.

Miller continued his form into the second stanza and found himself in a shooting position at the back post within the first five minutes of the restart, but his effort was blocked by two Victory defenders at point blank range.

As the ball squeezed out wide, Miller once again won the ball back, turned two Victory defenders in the one move and motored towards the penalty box, only to feel contact from Jason Davidson on his back and over he went.

Lewis MIller had another impressive performance at right back.

Referee Adam Kersey shook his head and play continued with VAR not recommending any further action.

The Mariners made a change in the middle with Harry Steele being replaced by Max Balard and they began to control the match, pegging Victory back and playing the ball around in dangerous areas.

Jason Cummings was largely isolated up front but looked dangerous on more than one occasion as he found his shot blocked from his weaker right foot and spin out for a corner, when it looked to be nestling into the top corner with Kelava rooted to the spot.

Marco Ureña was next to test Kelava but once again, the Victory defence scrambled their way around the penalty box to throw a body in the way, leaving their goalkeeper untroubled.

The Mariners pressure was building and as they pressed hard for an equaliser, Josh Nisbet was the next to field an effort, this one also being deflected away for a corner.

When it looked certain that the result was only going one way, the Victory built their way back into the match and began to create some more chances.

Dan Hall was on hand twice to deny two efforts, one that he cleared off the line, the other that he took off the toe of the Victory attack when a goal looked certain.

Dan Hall proving that he is one of the most in-form centre-backs in the league once again

Late in the match, Francesco Margiotta had the game’s best chance when he was through on goal, with the Mariners pouring bodies forward, but he couldn’t drag his shot on target and the match looked destined to finish a stalemate.

However the match would not finish goalless as for the third week in a row, the Mariners conceded an injury time goal, this time from the head of Nishan Velupillay which brought the Mariners to their knees after a superb performance which deserved at least a point at a venue they have enjoyed very little success at.

It goes on to be a case of what could’ve been for the Mariners, as they turn their attention to Melbourne City back at AAMI Park on Tuesday evening at 7:55pm.