It was a hot and steamy Tuesday night in Leichhardt as APIA Leichhardt hosted the Central Coast Mariners in the FFA Cup Quarter Finals.
The visitors flexed their professional muscles and turned up the heat putting APIA to the sword and running out 6-0 winners with goals to six different scorers.
First half goals to Max Balard and Dan Hall set the tone early on, before Moresche added a third, Garang Kuol scored the fourth and Matt Hatch and Noah Smith put the gloss on the brilliant performance.
Nick Montgomery’s Mariners were buzzing having just come off the back of a terrific 2-0 victory against Western Sydney Wanderers and for this clash they named a slightly changed eleven with Harry McCarthy being given his first start for the club and Kye Rowles handed the captain armband with Ollie Bozanic rested.
There was a lot of hype around the contest pre-match but the early Max Balard goal set the tone for what was to come as he curled a delicious finish into the bottom corner after receiving a Josh Nisbet pass on the edge of the box, putting the visitors 1-0 up within the opening minutes.
The professional side dominated possession and made it very difficult for APIA to get out of their half and before the half hour mark had a second when the ball fell to Dan Hall at the back post from a corner and he slammed the ball into the roof of the net to make it two.
For Balard and Hall, their first goal in the senior team was met by collective jubilation from team-mates knowing the quality they have shown at Academy Level.
At just 23, Moresche shows a lot of composure for someone his age and he was unlucky not to have the visitors’ third goal before the break when his strike was well saved by Luke Turnbull in the APIA net.
After the half time break, normal service resumed with Turnbull forced into action with an immediate strike off the foot of Béni Nkololo within a minute of the restart and the number 22 did well to deny the Frenchman.
For all the Mariners’ delicate passing and intricate movement, their third goal would be assisted by an unlikely source. Mark Birighitti stood between Kye Rowles and Dan Hall in his six yard box as both awaited a short pass from a goal-kick. The shot-stopper had other ideas however as he launched a full field pass directly into the path of Moresche, taking out the entire APIA team, and Moresche did what he does best by dinking the ball over Turnbull and calmly slotting it into the un-occupied net.
The goal-scoring did not stop there for the Central Coast as they saw the quality that the Kuol family possess. Garang Kuol entered the field for his senior debut, and within minutes, announced himself to the Mariners faithful with a finish that his older brother Alou became synonymous with. Garang picked up the ball in the APIA half and drove toward goal, slotted the ball home and provided delight for supporters and coaches alike at what a talent they may have on their hands.
The finish of the night must go to Matt Hatch who could be in for goal of the tournament with his stunning effort from a ridiculous angle. The ball sat up for the Coast local out wide close to the corner flag and spotting Turnbull off his line, launched a deadly volley that nestled in the far post. All four corners of Leichhardt oval collectively applauded the audacity and execution from Hatch for his first goal of the season.
Following the red card of Walter Scott for the denying of a goal scoring opportunity on Dan Hall who was about to score his second, APIA tried valiantly to score a consolation but were met by 22-year-old Hall who was a rock at the back alongside captain Kye Rowles.
Noah Smith made his Mariners debut in the match and scored the final goal of the night with a delicate but well measured finish into the bottom corner with his left foot with ten men APIA well and truly out on their feet.
It was a complete performance from the Mariners with a total of nine Academy Graduates involved throughout the 90 minutes and the scoring of first professional goals for Balard, Hall, Kuol and Smith as well as the completion of the third consecutive clean sheet.
Attention now turns back to league action for the Yellow and Navy as they host Wellington Phoenix after Christmas on the 27th of December at Central Coast Stadium.