Mariners fall to narrow defeat in Semi-Final first leg

Central Coast Mariners fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat at home to Sydney FC in the first leg of the Liberty A-League Semi-Finals.

A closely-contested and entertaining Semi-Final ended with the Mariners frustrated to not find the back of the net from seven shots on target (18 shots in total), finding Jada Whyman in fine form on the day, whilst also hitting the crossbar in the second half.

Emily Husband made just one change from last weekend’s dramatic Elimination Final win over Melbourne Victory, Tiarna Karambasis coming in for Faye Bryson, whilst Sophie Nenadovic came onto the bench.

It was a bright start from the Mariners who had the better of the play in the first half, buoyed by a strong crowd of over 4000 at Industree Group Stadium. Sydney’s main threat was the pace of Courtnee Vine on the counter attack but Whyman was definitely kept the busier of the two goalkeepers.

Rola Badawiya had the games first shot on target five minutes in, cutting in on her left after she was found by a beautiful pass from Kyah Simon, but could only fire straight at Whyman.

Vine had a nearly-moment at the other end on nine minutes, getting in behind the Mariners defence and looping a shot onto the top of Casey Dumont’s goal.

The end-to-end flow of the game continued as Whyman was quick off her line to deny Simon after a brilliant pass from Izzy Gomez through the middle of the Sydney defence. Minutes later, Dumont had to be at her best to deny Vine after a strong run from Sydney’s Matilda.

The Mariners ended the half on top, first Whyman tipped Wurigumula’s curling shot over the bar before Sydney somehow managed to scramble clear what was the best chance of the half.

A rare moment of misjudgement from Whyman who found herself stranded after Jazmin Wardlow beat her to a cross, the ball fell to Simon who headed goalwards but Margaux Chauvet managed to frantically clear off the line.

Sydney’s stopper was then back to her best moments later, making a brilliant stop from Badawiya to ensure the two sides went in level at the break.

The visitors came out the strongest at the start of the second half and took the lead on 53 minutes, Mackenzie Hawkesby sliding the ball under Dumont to net the first goal of the tie.

The Mariners responded well to going behind, first Simon headed over from Wurigumula’s cross, before some brilliant counter-attacking play led to a chance for Gomez but she couldn’t keep her shot down from Bianca Galic’s cut-back.

The closest the Mariners came to an equaliser was on 72 minutes as Wurigumula’s effort agonisingly came back down off the underside of the crossbar with Whyman simply a spectator.

Dumont was required to make one more important stop at the other end to deny Shea Connors’ curling effort in stoppage time, but it was her opposite number Whyman who took the plaudits on the day, with a Player of the Match performance.

Despite Sydney taking the lead into the second-leg Husband’s side will still be confident after a strong performance, and go into next week’s second leg with a place in the Grand Final still all to play for.

The second leg takes place next Saturday at Leichhardt Oval, 3pm kick-off. Tickets can be purchased via the link below and supporter bus information will be available via Official Central Coast Mariners channels in the coming days.