Central Coast Mariners ended a historic year for the club in style, winning the second instalment of our special New Years Eve Double Header against Perth Glory in the Isuzu UTE A-League.
The Mariners had to come from behind but eventually ran out 4-2 winner in this fiery six-goal thriller. Goals from Jacob Farrell and Alou Kuol had the Mariners in front, before Marco Tulio netted a brace from the penalty spot in his emotional farewell game at Our Paradise.
One change to the starting line-up saw Mark Jackson hand a first A-League start to Brad Tapp, whose hard work was rewarded with a new 2-year-contract this week.
Tapp came in for the injured Harry Steele and certainly repaid that faith with a strong performance in the heart of our midfield, his defensive discipline, alongside Max Balard, enabling Josh Nisbet to shine once again in the number ten role.
It was actually Balard who almost opened the scoring after just five minutes, a rare venture forward to the edge of the box for him and he was so unlucky to be denied a first A-League goal by the foot of Cameron Cook’s post.
Perth struck the opener though, after 18 minutes. Adam Taggart expertly placed at the back post to volley home John Koutroumbis’ delivery from the right.
It wouldn’t take long for the Mariners to respond though, on 26 minutes Farrell collected an inch-perfect through ball from Nisbet before finishing like a seasoned striker himself, to draw us level.
Farrell, all action as ever down the Mariners left, was involved at both ends on 34 minutes. Some superb defending denied Taggart a tap in for Perth at one end, before he forced Cook into a save with a header at the other.
Just moments later, Angel Torres tested Cook again with a drive from 30 yards, before Mariners hit the front on the 40-minute mark through Kuol, his fourth A-League goal this season.
Storm Roux’s brave tackle won the ball back for the Mariners, Tulio drove forward and slid in Kuol who was first denied by Cook but followed in and simply wanted it more than the Glory defenders on the line to force home and give us the lead.
The Mariners looked set to take a 2-1 lead into the break but they would go one better, as Nisbet slid in Tulio, he chopped back onto his left and saw his shot blocked by the arm of Mark Beevers and the referee awarded a penalty.
Who else but Tulio to step up and stylishly convert to make it 3-1 in first half stoppage time.
The Mariners came close to extending their lead further three minutes into the second half, Tulio’s ball across the face looked sure to be tapped home but Koutroumbis did well to clear off the line.
Instead it was Perth who struck, Stefan Colakovski nipping in behind the Mariners defence and finishing nicely past Danny Vukovic to make it 3-2 on 52 minutes.
The game would be wrapped up by the Mariners late on, Tulio netting again from the spot after another handball from Beevers, which saw him receive a second yellow card.
The second on the night for the Brazilian was his 21st in 2023, breaking the record for most Mariners goals in a calendar year.
The drama wasn’t done there as in the aftermath of Tulio’s penalty, Aleksandar Šušnjar was also shown a second yellow, Perth’s ninth booking of ten on the night and they would finish with nine men.
A deserved three points for the Mariners in the end and a fitting way to end a memorable and historic year for the club.
Your next chance to visit Industree Group Stadium is on Saturday 6th January, as our Liberty A-League side take on Sydney FC.
Jackson’s men are back in Gosford on January 21st for a mouth-watering clash with last season’s Grand Final opposition Melbourne City, part of another special double header which also sees the Women take on Western Sydney Wanderers.