Wednesday evening saw Central Coast Stadium play host to another mid-week game as the Mariners took on Melbourne Victory for a third time this campaign – the two sides building quite a fierce rivalry this season. Montgomery’s men were looking to build on their win against Brisbane Roar over the weekend and get revenge for the previous meetings with Tony Popovic’s side.
A second half swivel, turn and shot from substitute Nicolai Müller would cancel out Nick D’Agostino’s opening goal for Victory as the match ended one a piece, leaving a Mariners outfit left thinking what could have been.
The first 10 minutes of the encounter saw the Central Coast hold a large share of the possession, with an early effort from Mariner’s front-man Jason Cummings demonstrating a solid start for the home side.
This early attacking foray would continue into the 19th minute where once again Cummings would fashion an opportunity, nodding the ball past an onrushing Kelava – but forced wide, his shot couldn’t find the back of the net and Victory were able to scramble back and recover.
In a match that would turn out to be a feisty affair, Lewis Miller received a yellow card and was lucky to escape with just his singular caution, after two rather inconspicuous challenges – both being met with an indignant response from the Coast faithful.
Melbourne would start to work their way into the game more and more as this portion of the half went on – with Mark Birighitti called into action with a strong, two-handed parry in the 21st minute followed by another brilliant stop just minutes later to deny Victory the opening goal.
Despite the Mariners possession, an error in the Mariners rear-guard would allow Melbourne’s in-form D’Agostino to slot the ball home past a stranded Mark Birighitti.
In response, Marco Ureña’s drive into the box brought about penalty claims just before the interval but the home side’s claims were waved away by referee Steven Lucas and the Mariners headed into the break a goal down, with work to do.
After the half-time stoppage, the Mariners looked to have recovered the defence resiliency as Dan Hall made a superb last-ditch challenge to deny D’Agostino his second of the match and used this as motivation to push for a goal.
The Mariners looked to equalise in the 54th minute through Costa-Rican marksman, with Marco Ureña breaking the line and blazing his left-footed strike narrowly wide, which was later called back for offside.
Just three minutes later, a well-worked set-piece ended with Jacob Farrell’s low-driven cross just barely evading Beni Nkololo at the back-stick as the Mariners really began to push for the equaliser early in the second stanza.
Nico Müller entered the fray around the 60th minute for winger Cy Goddard – the substitute having a big role to play in turning the tide for the yellow and navy.
The Mariners continued to hold good possession but were unable to find the breakthrough against Victory’s low-block – reducing Ollie Bozanic to a speculative effort from range which floated over the top of the crossbar.
The 80th minute saw another substitution from Nick Montgomery, introducing James Bayliss and Noah Smith for Lewis Miller and Jacob Farrell – a swap down the flanks an attempt to find that breakthrough.
An instant impact was observed from Smith as his whipped cross from the left found a stretching Marco Ureña but his diving header was just directed off-target from close range as the Mariners pushed for an equaliser.
It took until the 84th minute for the Mariners to hit the back of the Melbourne net and it came in the shape of their in-form German – after an Ureña headed cross came off the head of Cummings, the ball fell to Müller who swivelled and turned and found the bottom corner of Kelava’s net.
It was a game up for the taking, but the Mariners were unable to find a winner, but a valuable point was gained, nonetheless passing the halfway point of the season.
Nick Montgomery and his men continue the hunt for another three points at HBF Park as they take on Perth Glory at 10:05pm in another mid-week clash, next Tuesday.