Under the lights at Central Coast Stadium, the re-scheduled Round 7 Isuzu UTE A-League fixture saw Ante Milicic’s Macarthur FC take-on a Central Coast Mariners outfit whose focus was now entirely shifted back to the league fresh off their massive FFA Cup Final clash in Melbourne.
The contest turned into one of the matches of the season as Macarthur took a two goal lead in the first half only to be completely overturned by the Mariners as they went 3-2 ahead with goals from Marco Ureña, Oliver Bozanic and Moresche. The final say of the night would come from the boot of Craig Noone who added to Tommy Oar’s Goal of the Season contender with another quality finish.
The Mariners started the match on top, having a large share of the early possession and looking for the intelligent runs of Jason Cummings, making his home debut under the palms. The first ten minutes saw early chances fall the way of the Mariners front-line with both Cummings and Urena narrowly missing some well-worked chances.
Macarthur would slowly work their way back into the game in spurts after the Mariners early pressure; the duo of Kye Rowles and Dan Hall standing tall, as they had done when called upon each week prior.
The deadlock was to be broken in spectacular style, albeit against the run of play.
A corner would fall to Tommy Oar 25-yards from goal, on the volley as a helpless Mark Birighitti could only watch the ball fly into the back of his net. Macarthur 1-0 in stunning fashion.
The momentum had shifted in Macarthur’s favour after the goal, and Kye Rowles would be called upon again to produce a stunning, sliding challenge to deny the Bulls a second.
However, Macarthur would double their advantage shortly after.
A free-kick whipped into the box from outside the corner of the 18-yard, was headed away initially by Jacob Farrell, but only as far as Adrian Mariappa who would leather the ball home from close range – as Mariners found themselves down by two.
Nick Montgomery’s men would kick back into gear, with a marauding run down the left flank from young Jacob Farrell – his cut-back to the edge of the box found a late-arriving Marco Ureña and after a couple of deflections, the ball nestled into the back of the net.
Jason Cummings had a chance to bring the Mariners back level right before the half-time break, making space on the edge of the box and bending an effort which was narrowly deflected wide post the left-hand post.
The Mariners head into the sheds 2-1 down, but certainly in the ascendancy.
Two changes were made to begin the second stanza. Nicolai Müller & Béni Nkololo coming on for Max Balard and Joshua Nisbet.
The substitutions made an instant impact with Müller displaying his quality early – just a minute after coming on, collecting the ball and driving forward and sending a wonderful strike against the crossbar with Filip Kurto beaten.
Müller’s industrious performance continued, as he doggedly won the ball back for the Mariners and slipped Jason Cummings in behind the Macarthur defence, for yet another chance for the Scot.
Cummings found himself in behind the Bulls backline once again after a deft through ball from the Captain, Ollie Bozanic – but before the trigger could be pulled, Cummings was taken to the ground by substitute Moudi Najjar.
Initially, the penalty was not given on field – however, the VAR intervened and awarded the Mariners an opportunity to draw level.
Oliver Bozanic stepped up and slotted home his third goal of the season, this time from the spot.
The match had opened up, both teams after the winner – chasing the three points.
Macarthur having multiple attempts blocked by the recently named Mark Viduka Medal Winner, Rowles in a sturdy Mariners defence.
The Mariners substitutes combined once again, with Moresche and Storm Roux playing a neat one-two into the box as Najjar caught the trailing leg of Roux. This time, the penalty was awarded immediately by referee Lachlan Keevers.
The beloved Brazilian Moresche stepped up for the second spot kick of the match – blasting the ball into Kurto’s net. From 2-0 down, Mariners now had the lead for the first time in the match and the Mariners crowd were showing their appreciation of the huge effort to turn the match on it’s head.
Macarthur would have the final say, in the 90th minute – yet another goal of the season contender, this time by Craig Noone with a cracking volley which will surely go around the world.
In the end with three goals-a-piece, Montgomery’s men were forced to settle for a draw after almost completing a comeback for the ages – a night of ‘what could have been’.
There will be no time to dwell on lost points as the Mariners return to Central Coast Stadium just three days later, this Sunday to host Perth Glory for the first time this Isuzu UTE A-League Season.