It was an overcast day in Penrith as Isuzu UTE A-League football returned to BlueBet Stadium, with the Mariners meeting Macarthur Bulls for the first time since the Elimination Final last season.
It was a tight contest in the opening 45 and the deadlock was broken late in the half when Ullises Davilla’s effort off target was unfortunately deflected in off a Mariners body.
Despite a superb second half performance, the Mariners were unable to find the net and the Bulls won the match 1-0.
In the opening moments of Sunday’s afternoon kick-off, the Mariners began on the front foot with Moresche and Marco Ureña paired up front for the first time this season and both were looking to get in behind early on with Josh Nisbet and Cy Goddard playing some lovely balls through, however the final ball just fell short on a few occasions.
There was an early first half change that was forced on Nick Montgomery’s Mariners after A-League debutant goal-keeper Yaren Sözer, who was replacing the suspended Mark Birighitti, limped off with a quad strain and was later seen on crutches much to his own frustration. One person’s loss is another’s gain and up stepped 17-year-old Lawrence Caruso. Caruso was signed from Melbourne City’s Academy and originally joined the Mariners this season in the NPL squad.
Caruso entered the match with confidence despite his young age and began knocking the ball around at the back with ease in his opening minutes.
As the half progressed, the Mariners began to take the upper hand and were unlucky not to be ahead when Ureña had a cut-back deflect wide for a corner and moments later, a beautiful team goal almost materialised as Moresche linked with Ureña, who provided a perfectly weighted pass into Storm Roux’s path and the cut back to Cy Goddard placed the ball on a platter. Goddard’s shot was turned away strongly by Filip Kurto and the score remained even.
Just as it looked like both elevens would head into the sheds level, Macarthur would find the go-ahead goal after Davilla was left unmarked on the edge of the box from a Danny De Silva cut-back and his scuffed strike looked to be heading off target, but unfortunately struck a Mariners body, wrong-footing Caruso and nestling in the corner.
Refreshed, the Mariners came out in the second 45 and were all guns blazing. Marco fired the first shot in anger of the half and Kurto threw up a hand to deny him before starting A-League debutant Harry Steele very nearly curled one into the top corner from the edge of box that lifted the bench onto their feet only to watch it sail inches wide in agony.
Ureña had another chance moments later when he made a great run in behind, only to see his shot narrowly miss the target.
In defence, Kye Rowles had a magnificent performance and prevented any dangerous Macarthur attack from materialising as the Yellow and Navy continued to dominate much of the possession at BlueBet Stadium as the Mariners fans cheered on from the stands.
Nothing appeared to be falling kindly for the Central Coast as a goal line scramble that left bodies strewn all over the box, remarkably didn’t cross the line. Lewis Miller squared a perfectly weighted ball across the face and Moresche appeared to stand on the ball, only for the Bulls to flood bodies back, Filip Kurto to spill the ball, Marco to try and score from scraps and the trainers required on both sides as Kurto clutched onto the ball for dear life and the score remained at one.
Lawrence Caruso was called into action for the first time in the match as he saved low to his right from Tomislav Uskok, demonstrating that he deserves to be on this stage despite his young age.
At the death, yet again, the ball would not ricochet favourably as Farrell’s header looped inside the six yard box, landing on the head of Moresche who found his effort clawed away by Kurto when it looked a certain equaliser. It was a man of the match performance from the Macarthur shot-stopper as he kept a clean sheet once more and the Mariners left wondering how they didn’t come away with at least a point.
Over the space of the next week, the Mariners will find out the date of their FFA Cup Quarter Final against either APIA Leichardt or Western Sydney Wanderers, before finally enjoying their first home game of the season as Sydney FC make the trip on Sunday to Central Coast Stadium.