Mariners Academy narrowly miss epic comeback against Spartans


IN A TALE of two halves, Blacktown Spartans continued their unbeaten start to the PlayStation4 National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s season with an exciting 3-2 victory over Central Coast Mariners at Blacktown Football Park.

Blacktown Spartans 3 (Ogun Dullak 2, Mohamad Rahimi) Central Coast Mariners 2 (Shelford Dais, Duncan Stewart)

Ogun Dullak grabbed a brace to give his side a 2-0 lead at the break but a resurgent Mariners Academy struck back with goals to Shelford Dais and substitute Duncan Stewart, only to see Spartans’ Mohamad Rahimi snatch an 85th minute winner.   

Spartans started well with Alex Boyadijan looking dangerous and causing problems for the visitor’s defence. Mariners’ keeper Adam Pearce, however, had no trouble dealing with Boyadijan’s two attempts on goal.

Mariners’ Peter Kekeris also showed plenty of panache, displaying pace, skill and the ability to beat a man with his crafty footwork.

Spartans had the better of the early exchanges but despite the Mariners’ slow star the first real opportunity of the match came in the 13th minute when Mariners’ livewire Charles William shot wide. Kekeris followed up with a rasping effort, only to be denied by impressive Spartans goalkeeper and former Australian schoolboys representative Domenic Nascimben. Central Coast then conceded a penalty in the 29th minute when Spartans’ Michael Konestabo was upended inside the box. Dullak stepped up and beat Pearce from the spot to give the home side a 1-0 lead.

Buoyed by their advantage, Spartans continued to pressure the Mariners and were rewarded with a second goal, an ambitious long-range free-kick by Dullak that bounced and then somehow trickled its way into the back of the net. At 2-0, the locals continued to press but the Mariners missed a golden opportunity to bridge the gap when in the 43rd minute, Charles William couldn’t take advantage of a one-on-one duel with Nascimben.       

Mariners coach Ben Cahn said that his boys were frustrated during the halftime break, going in at 2-0 down but some tactical changes allowed the visitors to change the complexion of the game. 

Indeed, the Mariners showed their intent after the break and in the 61st minute an inch-perfect William cross from the left was met by Shelford Dais, who side-footed the ball into the back of the net.

Despite the setback, the Spartans continued to attack and in the 63rd minute Mohamad Rahimi went close to extending his side’s lead with a well-taken free kick from just outside the penalty box. Konestabo also went close but Pearce did enough to deny the Spartans their third. Alessandro Pecora managed to beat the Mariners’ keeper but his header from a Kojiro Hori free kick rattled against the bar.

Spartans may have held the advantage but Central Coast gradually inched their way back into the game. Kekeris took off on a run down the left only to see his shot fly over the bar, while Nascimben denied William at the near-post.

But in the 77th minute Central Coast equalised when substitute Duncan Stewart latched onto a perfect cross from Brenton Fox to head past a despairing Nascimben.

With the momentum swinging Central Coast’s way, Kekeris set off on a brilliant solo run only to see Nascimben pull off another great save. A minute later, Nascimben again denied Kekeris, keeping his side alive by the perennial skin of their teeth.

In the 84th minute Spartans cried for a penalty as Pecora took a tumble inside the box, but referee Trent Nash wasn’t convinced and waved play on. That call didn’t matter a minute later, when, from a goalmouth scramble, Rahimi prodded home what proved to be the match-winner. 

The young Mariners continued to attack and pushed hard for an equaiser but the Spartans had done enough to secure all three points.

Mariners’ coach Ben Cahn was disappointed with the result and acknowledged that his side’s naivety in defence and inability to capitalise on opportunities in the front third, proved to be costly.

“We knew we could beat this team and we knew we were better than them and we proved that in the second half,” Cahn told Football NSW. “We had complete domination of the game, complete control, but football is about what you do at either end of the pitch and you need to be ruthless at both ends.

“We made some really good tactical changes at halftime and once we changed our shape a little bit we got complete control of the game and could’ve scored six, seven, eight. Once we got back to 2-2 and had done the hard work, we looked like we were going to win it but again naïve defending cost us. The result is a similar story to last season and a similar story to the Marconi game last week. It’s very disappointing.”

Earlier results

  • 18 s WON 2-0 (Sutherland & Lozada)
  • 20s WON 4-3 (Fuller, Lee, Safdari & Wilson)

Match Stats

Saturday 11 March 2017 at Blacktown Football Park

Referee: Trent Nash

Blacktown Spartans: 1. Domenic Nascimben, 2. Daisan Kim, 4. Tiano Boutoubia, 5. James Letta, 6. Mohamad Rahimi, 7. Michael Konestabo (9. Garang Awac 78’), 8. Aaron White, 10. Kojiro Hori, 11. Alex Boyadijan (20. Mitchell Cross 74’), 16. Alessandro Pecora, 23. Ogun Dullak (42. Jacob Forster 63’)

Subs not used: 15. Andre Giolosa, 20. Mitchell Cross

Yellow Cards: 4. Tiano Boutoubia, 23. Ogun Dullak, 2. Daisan Kim

Coach: Luis Costigiani

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Adam Pearce, 2. Shelford Dais, 5. Charles William, 6. James Enticknap, 7. Lachlan Wales (15. Yerasimakis Petratos 63’), 8. Thomas Lyons, 9. Brenton Fox, 11. Peter Kekeris, 14. Sean Pratt (10. Duncan Stewart), 16. Gianni Stensness (19. Jordan Lane), 18. Steve Whyte

Subs not used: 3. Jake Mcguinness, 20. Aidan Munford.

Yellow Cards: 2. Shelford Dais, 8. Thomas Lyons

Coach: Ben Cahn