Sydney FC keeper Clint Bolton was the hero for the Sky Blues as the Birthday Boy pulled off two miraculous saves to deny Central Coast Mariners victory in Gosford as the battle of the small coastal town and the big city slickers end 0-0.
An amazing final few minutes of what was for the most part a poor game saw both teams come to life. First right before the 90 minutes were up Mariners Striker Mat Simon put midfield John Hutchinson through on goal with a lovely chip pass, the Maltese international Hutchinson was about to shoot but was sandwiched by the desperate challenge of Sydney defenders Simon Colosimo and Sung Hwan Byun.
Referee Strebre Delovski correctly ruled for a penalty and a game that did not deserve a goal was about to offer a chance for Mariners attacker Adam Kwasnik to win the game. Kwasnik struck the penalty and Sydney FC keeper dived to his right guessing correctly and saved the spot kick.
Sydney then ran down the field in a swift counter attack World Cup hopeful John Aloisi laid in on to Irish midfielder Terry McFlynn and the curling shot from outside the box went agonisingly wide and the strong away support for Sydney let out a collective groan.
The Mariners or the game was not yet finished and with virtually the last play of the day Dylan Macallister ran in to the Sydney penalty box and got onto the end of a lovely Michael McGlinchey pass. Again it was Bolton who rescued Sydney, this time with his legs. The side footed shot was aimed at the near post when it should have perhaps been targeted across the goal.
The first two rounds of the A League served up a feast of goals and exciting high intensity football. This match was the opposite of exciting it was dull and boring and bereft of goal scoring chances save for the last three minutes and was characterised by poor passing and lack of spirit by both teams.
During the opening 30 minutes of the game Sydney FC Swiss import Stephen Keller a signing from the Dutch side De Graafschap played nine long balls mostly in the direction of Alex Brosque who was playing wide on the left. For the Mariners Mat Simon was continuously caught offside as both teams’ tactics cancelled each other out.
Early in the game Alex Brosque did get a good shot on goal but Mariners keeper Danny Vukovic saved the shot. Sydney then had some shots from outside the box that failed to hit the target but it wasn’t till the end of the half when both teams intensity lifted and the chances started coming.
The best chance for the Sky Blues in the first half fell to Keller but his header from a corner went wide. A few moments later John Aloisi was released by Culinaesque ball by McFlynn but as Aloisi ran through on goal the linesman incorrectly ruled for offside.
The Mariners made a couple of raids down the left at the end of the first half one purposeful run by Ahmed Elrich resulted in a dangerous cross that was well cleared by Sydney FC right back Shannon Cole.
The second half was a dour affair and both teams were guilty of wasting possession. There was a distinct lack of combinations with miss- placed and miss-timed passes being the order of the day, as defence ruled the game. Sydney FC’s exciting winger Kofi Danning was well contained by Dean Heffernan but the youngster was not helped by the poor service he received from his team mates.
If the first two rounds of football were the zenith of the A League this game had certainly reached a nadir. Just as I was thinking that this game was so poor and it did not deserve a goal, out of nowhere; injury time conjured up an extraordinary end.
For the second week in a row the Mariners will the rue the fact they did not win at home, it will feel like two points were given away and on the way back to Sydney I’m sure the Sky Blues would have been whistling the tune from the movie The Great Escape.
Central Coast Mariners
Danny VUKOVIC: 6/10 Not as busy as Bolton but did well when needed.
Pedj BOJIC: 6/10 Was the boss in the midfield defensively.
Bradley PORTER: 6/10 A decent performance at right back.
John HUTCHINSON: 7/10 A strong display in midfield and won the penalty.
Dean HEFFERNAN: 6/10 Held Kofi Danning at bay.
Michael McGLINCHEY: 6/10 Did not get into the game, but set up a late chance.
Nigel BOOGAARD: 6/10 Strong at the back.
Alex WILKINSON: 6/10 Held the defence firm.
Matthew SIMON: 6/10 Was hard to contain, but not so dangerous in this game.
Ahmed ELRICH (Sub 65): 6/10 Looks like he is getting back to full fitness, made a couple of decent runs down the left.
Dylan MACALLISTER 65: 5/10 Missed the chance to win the game right at the death
Adam KWASNIK: 5/10 Missed the penalty
Clint BOLTON: 8/10 Was the hero for Sydney FC made two brilliant saves to save the game.
Stephan KELLER: 5/10 Guilty of too many diagonal long balls.
Simon COLOSIMO: 5/10 Gave away the penalty.
Karol KISEL: 6/10 Not the best performance by the Slovak, but still worked.
John ALOISI: 6/10 Was one of the players who worked hard in a side that was mostly flat.
Steve CORICA sub 59: 6/10 Was quiet for most of the game.
Mark BRIDGE 59’: 6/10 Did not have the same impact as last week, but did produce some nice touches.
Kofi DANNING SUB 74: 6/10 Suffered from poor ball, but still posed a threat when he got it.
Brendan GAN 74’: 6/10 A quiet subs performance.
Shannon COLE: 5/10 A poor game by Shannon, lost possession in his own half too many times.
Alex BROSQUE: 6/10 Was the target of many of Sydney’s long balls.
Terry MCFLYNN: 6/10 Almost won the game at the death in a mostly quiet display.
Sung Hwan BYUN: 5/10 Was involved in the penalty, and was caught out of position at times, should throw short now and again.
Central Coast Mariners 0
Sydney FC 0
Central Coast Mariners: 20. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Bradley PORTER, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Dean HEFFERNAN, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matthew SIMON, 21. Ahmed ELRICH (11. Dylan MACALLISTER 65’), 23. Adam KWASNIK.
Substitutes Not Used: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 9. Nik MRDJA, 22. Nicky TRAVIS.
Yellow Cards: John HUTCHINSON 77’.
Red Cards: nil.
Sydney FC: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 3. Stephan KELLER, 4. Simon COLOSIMO, 6. Karol KISEL, 9. John ALOISI, 10. Steve CORICA (c) (19. Mark BRIDGE 59’), 11. Kofi DANNING (7. Brendan GAN 74’), 12. Shannon COLE, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 15. Terry MCFLYNN, 22. Sung Hwan BYUN.
Substitutes Not Used: 17. Matthew JURMAN, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk).
Yellow Cards: Sung Hwan BYUN 29’, Karol KISEL 78’.
Red Cards: nil.
Referee: Strebre Delovski
Crowd: 10,029 at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford.