Max Balard strikes first A-League goal as Mariners sink City late on again

Central Coast Mariners secured a dramatic late victory over Melbourne City thanks to Max Balard’s first ever A-League goal.

92 minutes into his 74th appearance for the Mariners, Balard could not have picked a better time to net his first goal, dancing through the City defence after linking up with who else but Josh Nisbet, an eighth Isuzu UTE A-League assist this season for our Socceroo.

Seeking a positive response from our 2-0 defeat to Sydney on Saturday evening, Mark Jackson made two changes to his starting eleven, bringing in Miguel Di Pizio and Nathan Paull for Christian Theoharous and Bradley Tapp.

The Mariners started brightly with Ryan Edmondson’s presence upfront causing problems, he drew two early fouls in promising positions for the Mariners but we couldn’t make City pay.

It was the visitors that went closest in the first half though, Tolgay Arslan’s low shot hitting the outside of Danny Vukovic’s post.

Arslan would force Vuka into action again minutes later, he made a smart reaction stop to deflect away a free-kick. The Mariners went straight down the other end and Balard forced Jamie Young into his first save of the game with a cheeky back-heel.

The Mariners’ best effort of the half came on 31 minutes, Edmondson climbing highest from a Balard corner, but glanced his header just wide.

Both sides then had half chances as Edmondson fired wide after a strong run, before Marin Jakolis could only hit the side netting with a decent opening for City.

There was a huge moment in the match on 43 minutes, as our skipper made the save of the game, somehow denying Jakolis from close-range to keep the scores level going into half time.

City took the lead five minutes into the second half as Arslan slid home from close range, but the Mariners responded almost immediately to make it 1-1.

Some great work from influential half-time substitute Christian Theoharous saw him rob the ball from a City defender in the box before he was brought down, the referee pointed to the spot and up stepped Angel Torres to score yet again against Melbourne City.

Jakolis squandered another great chance for City on the hour mark, volleying wide from a deep cross.

The Mariners were thankful of the fine reactions of Danny Vukovic again on 82 minutes, as he got down smartly to push away Vicente Fernandez’ deflected strike from range.

It was an outstanding performance between the sticks from our captain who made nine saves in the 90 minutes, denying Melbourne City a total of 2.04 xG.

Vuka’s great work would be rewarded at the other end as the Mariners snatched the winner in the 92nd minute. Balard, injecting energy into the attack in the dying embers of the game, starting the move on the halfway line before arriving in the box to slot home his first goal and spark huge celebrations at Our Paradise.

A fine return home after more than six weeks without a home game, but this time the Mariners only have to wait four days until the next and they don’t come much bigger than this…

Jackson’s side can return to the top of the Isuzu UTE A-League with a win against Wellington Phoenix. We need your support to Take us to the Top.