A last-gasp Miguel Di Pizio goal was the saviour for the Mariners on Wednesday evening, as they clutched onto the control at the top of Group G with a 1-1 draw at home to Terengganu.
A win for Mark Jackson’s side would have seen them through to the knockout round with a game to spare but they found themselves chasing the game after Engku Nur Shakir’s 53rd minute header.
Di Pizio’s goal keeps Mariners in top spot, one point ahead of Terengganu, meaning we simply have to equal or better the Malaysian’s result in the final group game on 13th December when we travel to Stallions Laguna whilst they host Bali United.
The first chance of the night for the hosts came after nine minutes, as Angel Torres threaded a fine pass through to Marco Tulio who tried to loft the ball over Suhaimi, but the Terengganu keeper managed to get enough on it to divert it wide.
Danny Vukovic was forced into action for the first time on 15 minutes, getting down smartly to palm away Habib Haroun’s effort from 30 yards.
Suhaimi was tested again by Tulio on 17 minutes, pushing the ball away from the Brazilian’s free-kick that was whipped towards goal.
Ivan Mamut is the Eagles’ top scorer this season with 15, he had thought he’d spotted an opportunity to lob Vukovic. Our experienced stopper was never falling for that one and casually chested the ball down underneath his crossbar.
Some bright play down the right hand side between two of Saturday’s derby day goal scorers, Will Wilson and Storm Roux, ended with the right back curling a left footed effort towards goal but it would be no bother for Suhaimi.
Mamut made another attempt at the spectacular on 31 minutes, a dipping left-footed volley from the corner of the box that flew way over Vukovic’s crossbar.
At the other end, it was Tulio’s turn to attempt a goal of the tournament contender and he came much closer than Mamut could manage. An outrageous piece of skill in the box saw him flick the ball over two Terengganu defenders before striking the ball cleanly on the half volley, but Suhaimi was equal to it at his near post.
Suhaimi’s inspired goalkeeping continued into the second half as he kept out Alou Kuol’s header with a flying save, less than a minute after the restart.
Terengganu took the lead against the run of play on 53 minutes, a corner was flashed into the near post and flicked on and in by Shakir, despite the best efforts of Jacob Farrell on the line.
Mariners responded positively as they went in search of an important equaliser, Torres danced his way through The Eagles’ defence on 57 minutes but only found the side netting with his powerful shot.
The hosts should have been level on 83 minutes, Jing Reec flashing his free header wide from a corner.
Fellow substitute Di Pizio did have the scoring touch though, after looking bright since coming off the bench on the hour mark, the teenager would be the one to save the Mariners at the death.
He kept his cool to control a cross to the back post, before steadying himself and firing high into the net from close range.
The 17-year-old almost went one better in stoppage time too, but was denied a dramatic winner as Suhaimi pushed his blistering half-volley wide of the post, meaning the points would be shared in Gosford.
The Mariners are back in Isuzu UTE A-League action this Sunday as they welcome unbeaten Melbourne Victory to Our Paradise, tickets for that game can be purchased HERE!