Central Coast Mariners stunned hosts Macarthur FC 2-0 in a disappointing first home game for the A-League’s newest side. The victory sent last year’s wooden spoon recipients top of the A-League ladder, with back-to-back wins to start a season for the first time in 13 years.
Then Adelaide United scorched 10-man Melbourne City in a sizzling second half to win 2-0 after City captain Scott Jamieson saw red.
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Mariners stun Macarthur
The lowly Central Coast Mariners had not won back-to-back league matches in three years, but they ended the drought with an impressive 2-0 win over newcomers Macarthur FC.
Macarthur opened their A-League account with a derby win in their maiden game, a 1-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers. It was a similar story in the Mariners’ first game of the season, who beat F3 Derby rivals the Newcastle Jets before fireworks lit up Gosford Stadium on New Year’s Eve.
Backgrounded by the sound of cowbells – a brilliant innovation for the Campbelltown crowds to ring – the Bulls dominated the first half, running the Mariners ragged in muggy conditions.
But the Mariners stunned the home fans when they scored against the run of play, Daniel De Silva charging into the box and poking home off a cut-back from Josh Nisbet down the wing. His 35th-minute strike was the first shot on target of the match.
Mariners youngster Alou Koul nearly made it two off another counter-attack five minutes later, running onto a Josh Clisby long ball and battling central defender Alexander Susnjar. But Koul, who scored the matchwinner against the Jets in their opening game of the season, could only prod a tame shot towards keeper Adam Federici under significant pressure.
The Mariners – who finished last season in the wooden spoon position once again – were supremely impressive defensively, continuing a trend from the end of the last campaign.
The Bulls dominated possession throughout the second stanza but failed to penetrate the well-marshalled Mariners back line, rarely carving out clear opportunities.
The Mariners continued to sit deep and counterrattack, and were rewarded with a second goal to Jordan Smylie in the dying minutes.
Olyroos star Daniel Bouman emerged off the bench and broke the offside trap with a well-timed run, and patiently waited for Smylie to find space at the back post before teeing him up for the simplest of finishes.
The victory means the Mariners won two straight games to begin a season for the first time since 2007/08.
Red card costs City dearly
Meanwhile in Adelaide, a closely-fought contest between the Reds and Melbourne City was flipped on its head when City captain Scott Jamieson was sent off for a second bookable offence, and the Reds scored from the resulting set piece.
There was plenty of action – but no goals – in a pulsating first half at Hindmarsh Stadium.
In a battle of two Socceroos stars and two Olyroos goalkeepers, it was the keepers who managed to finish the half on top.
Adelaide’s recently-returned attacker Tomi Juric had shouts for a penalty waved away when he went down claiming his shirt had been tugged.
And on the other end, Jamie Maclaren twice got on the end of through balls behind the defence but couldn’t beat James Delianov between the sticks.
It was disappointing news for another Olyroo, with Adelaide defender Ryan Strain looking absolutely shattered after he injured his groin and was substituted midway through the first half.
In an attacking opening half, the sides shared 15 shots and eight corners, but the intensity inside the box was matched by a physical battle all across the park – 16 fouls in the half could well have led to more than the single yellow card referee Alireza Faghani doled out. The cards would flow in the second half – and soon proved decisive in the outcome of the contest.
The game turned on its head in 60 seconds of madness in the 66th minute. City captain Scott Jamieson, already on a yellow card, sloppily brought down Adelaide winger Dukuly on a counter-attack and was promptly handed a second caution.
It was his first red card in 257 A-League games.
From the resulting free-kick, Louis D’Arrigo picked out Tomi Juric on a well-drilled set piece routine, the returning Socceroo scoring his first A-League goal in five years when he picked out the bottom corner with a low driven shot from the edge of the box.
It was his first A-League goal in an incredible 2,087 days, having travelled to Europe to further his career.
“It’s something we had in mind,” Juric told Fox Football of the set piece routine. “We saw an opportunity with their set pieces – they drop quite deep.”
“It’s great. I’m back playing regular football which is what I’ve been dying to do. It hasn’t been a great couple of years for me personally with regards to football.”
Adelaide surged forward, determined to make good on their numerical advantage, as the over-10,000 fans turned the scene into a party atmosphere.
Buoyed by the introduction of young talents off the bench, recently-appointed captain Stefan Mauk played a neat one-two with 16-year-old Mohamed Toure and toe-poked home via a deflection in the 76th minute.
Adelaide, who drew 0-0 with Western United in the competition’s opening match, now move to second on the ladder behind the Mariners.
Their form is more impressive when you consider that former Socceroo Carl Veart is now unbeaten in his seven games in charge of the Reds since being appointed late last season.