Troy Hearfield’s scintillating 86th minute strike was enough for the Central Coast Mariners to stun Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic FC 1-nil in tonight’s international friendly at Sydney’s ANZ stadium.
Troy Hearfield-s scintillating 86th minute strike was enough for the Central Coast Mariners to stun Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic FC 1-nil in tonight-s international friendly at Sydney-s ANZ stadium.
On debut for his new club, Hearfield-s heroics etched him into Central Coast folklore, as the Mariners claimed arguably the biggest scalp in their history.
Although it was a pre-season friendly, and both sides were coming into the match lacking match fitness, Graham Arnold was still extremely pleased with the efforts of his side.
“I thought our defensive structure was again good tonight, although we were rusty in our execution in the final third,” said Arnold.
“Overall I thought we played well. It-s the first time the boys have played in this stadium, and to play a powerhouse side like Celtic was fantastic for them.
“They don-t have their history for no reason. They-re a top side, with some outstanding players. It-s their first game, so we played them at the best time in their tour.
“It was a great chance to see Australian players test themselves against that type of opposition,” said Arnold.
Facing a strong Celtic side bolstered by the inclusions of skipper Scott Brown, Beram Kayal, and Shaun Maloney among others – a stern test awaited the Mariners in this, their historic first international friendly.
Graham Arnold went for a combination of the exuberance of youth, and the nous of experienced veterans to combat the Scottish threat. Qantas Young Socceroo FIFA World Cup hopefuls Bernie Ibini-Isei, Trent Sainsbury and Sam Gallagher were all named in Arnold-s match day squad.
Former Celtic player and New Zealand International Michael McGlinchey was awarded the skipper-s armband. A just reward for one of the Mariners most consistent performers last season.
It was a composed start to the match for the Mariners who weren-t overawed by a meeting with one of the giants of Scottish football. Patrick Zwaanswijk and Rostyn Griffiths calmly worked together to repel the early raids, and ensured that in transition the Mariners would play the ball out from the back.
Chances were few and far between in the opening half as both sides attempted to settle into the rhythm of the game. Indeed the match was played predominantly in the middle third as the midfielders became the most influential players in the game.
Bernie Ibini-Isei gave the Celtic defence a fright with his sheer turn of speed in one of his first forays into the penalty area. It was acceleration that would have made Usain Bolt proud, but the well-drilled defenders were quick to learn their lesson, and thereafter chances were limited for the young striker.
Celtic-s best chance of the half came from a surging run from Mark Wilson. His cross was whipped towards the far post, but it was too good for everyone and sailed harmlessly over the by-line.
New acquisition Adriano Pellegrino showed his class threading some subtle passes through to Daniel McBreen and Ibini-Isei. But it was too be a familiar combination that would almost unlock the resolute Celtic defence.
In the twilight of the half Josh Rose surged forward and interchanged a lovely combination of passes with Oliver Bozanic. Even Celtic coach Neil Lennon was full of praise for the left-sided defender, believing his constant runs posed a threat to his side.
Both coaches wrung the changes in the opening minutes of the second half with the highly rated Englishman Gary Hooper being called into action. The talented attacker showed some deft touches as the visitors from Glasgow upped the tempo in a valiant effort to take the match to the Mariners.
Substitute Anthony Stokes almost gave Celtic the ultimate reward for this positive approach on the hour mark. A precision pass from midfield released Stokes, before Mariners custodian Justin Pasfield sensed the danger and rushed off his line to narrow the angle. Had Stokes shot a fraction of a second earlier, Celtic would have taken a decisive 1-nil lead.
As is so often the case in football after being under the pump, the Mariners immediately counter-attacked on the next play. Rose again surged forward and provided a dipping cross through to an unmarked Pellegrino. The latter couldn-t take advantage of the delivery, spurning his attempted header wide.
The match sank into a carbon copy of the first half as both midfields tried to get over the top of their opponents. Scott Brown was constantly frustrating the Mariners, and veteran John Hutchinson and McGlinchey tried valiantly to link up with their forwards.
Just as the match appeared headed for a scoreless draw Celtic manufactured a chance from nothing. It was left to one of the youngest players in Mariners colours to defuse the situation. Trent Sainsbury pulled off a tremendous last-ditch challenge on the fleet-footed Joe Ledley. It was a tackle that even made the Celtic faithful applaud generously.
With only minutes remaining in regular time it appeared that not even the Mariners could pull off a Houdini escape this time. Somebody forgot to tell Troy Hearfield who found himself unmarked just outside the box in the 86th minute. The midfielder struck a stinging shot that powered into the net. Aided by a deflection from the Celtic defence, it was still an exhibition of the new recruit-s undeniable talent.
There was one more heart-stopping moment in stoppage time when Celtic thought they had done enough to earn an equaliser. A plethora of yellow and navy in the box combined three times to deny the visitors, highlighted by a desperate clearance off the line by the wily Zwaanswijk.
A tough 1-nil win was a dream result for the Mariners, but Graham Arnold knows it means nothing with the season proper still months away.
One thing is for sure, the Central Coast Mariners proved tonight that they thrive under the pressure of an international friendly.
Central Coast Mariners – 1 (HEARFIELD 86-)
Glasgow Celtic FC – 0
Central Coast Mariners: 20. Justin PASFIELD (GK), 2. Daniel McBREEN, 3. Josh ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 9. Bernie IBINI-ISEI, 10. Adriano PELLEGRINO, 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY (c).
1. Nikodin MATIC (GK), 5. Brad PORTER, 12. Troy HEARFIELD, 15. Brad McCDONALD, 16. Trent SAINSBURY, 17. Michael BAIRD, 21. Sam GALLAGHER.
Yellow Cards: None
Red Cards: None
Celtic FC: 24. Lukasz ZALUSKA (GK), 2. Adam MATTHEWS, 8. Scott BROWN (C), 12. Mark WILSON, 13. Shaun MALONEY, 17. Kelvin WILSON, 22. Glenn LOOVENS, 27. Daryl MURPHY, 31. Richie TOWELL, 33. Beram KAYAL, 49. James FORREST.
47. Dom CERVI (GK), 10. Anthony STOKES, 15. Kris COMMONS, 16. Joe LEDLEY, 20. Paddy McCOURT, 88. Gary HOOPER.
Yellow Cards: None
Red Cards: None
Referee: Matthew BREEZE
Crowd: 19,482 at ANZ Stadium, Sydney