The Central Coast Mariners have continued their unbeaten streak, fare-welling 2011 with a scoreless nil-all draw against Gold Coast United in their Week 13 Hyundai A-League clash at Bluetongue Stadium this evening. Some enterprising play from the home side was not enough to break down a resolute Gold Coast side in the unofficial battle of the coasts.
A picture perfect summer afternoon greeted the teams as they took to Bluetongue for the final time in 2011. With the roar of nearly 15000 vocal supporters behind them, Josh Rose almost got the home side to the best possible start in just the third minute. His half volley dipped precariously for young Gold Coast custodian Jerrad Tyson who breathed a sigh of relief when it hit the roof of the net.
Buoyed by the confidence of defeating Brisbane Roar last start, Miron Bleiberg’s charges clearly fancied their chances against the high-flying Mariners. The visitor’s first chance of the evening came from the boot of Ben Halloran who blasted a shot over the top of Mat Ryan’s goal after ten minutes.
It was an energetic opening exchange as both teams demonstrated that they were clearly up for a contest in what quickly became an end-to-end match. Bernie Ibini, Mustafa Amini and Josh Rose unlocked a resolute Gold Coast defence in a lovely passage of play that almost resulted in the opening goal.
Gold Coast’s best chance of the half fell to Maceo Rigters who shot over the bar under immense pressure from skipper Alex Wilkinson. The defensive stalwart was all class after initially being beaten for pace in the lead-up he was able to recover and thwart the Dutchman’s strike.
Making his first start at Bluetongue since November’s clash against Melbourne Victory Oliver Bozanic was primed for a big performance. The winger went looking for work, both in attack and defence but it was his sublime skill to control a ball that was destined for the sideline that brought the loudest cheer.
Pedj Bojic who is in a rich vein of goal-scoring form at the moment delivered some strong crosses throughout the half, and had a chance of his own to open the scoring on the half hour, but unfortunately was unable to get his shot on target.
Ibini and Tyson were familiar combatants in the National Youth League, and shortly before half time they resumed hostilities in the big league. A stinging Ibini shot forced Tyson into a diving save that ensured the scores would remain deadlocked going into the break.
The second half action began with a carbon copy of the attack that ended the first stanza. An Ibini shot was once again well saved by Tyson. Sensing an opportunity to put pressure on the young custodian Bozanic tried his luck from just outside the box with a stinging drive, but Tyson again showed he was more than up to the task.
Gold Coast were able to absorb the pressure from the Mariners, and the home side patiently consolidated possession during the middle period of the half as they pressed forward for that elusive goal. Composed defence from the home side, and some silky passes from John Hutchinson and Michael McGlinchey meant that the visitors only had one chance in the second half.
It was a chance that James Brown would almost certainly want to have again as he almost stole the points for his side. Alert to the danger, Ryan raced off his line in a fantastic display of sweeping and was able to deny a flying Brown. Highlighting his ability, the young ‘keeper bounced back to his feet, and it was this quick recovery that distracted Ben Halloran following through long enough for him to miscue his shot over the bar.
With ten minutes to go in regular time the Mariners threw everything they had at a deep Gold Coast defence in a valiant attempt to manufacture a winner. Troy Hearfield was in everything, displaying a clean pair of heels to deliver a pass that Matt Simon that Simon went within inches of reeling in, a deft touch that released Bozanic who was unable to keep his shot down, and along with Simon went within inches of squeezing a trickling ball inside the near-post.
Deep in stoppage time the Mariners had one final chance to seal all three points, and had it been successful it would have been one for the highlights for the ages. Displaying all the nous of an experienced striker, Daniel McBreen sensed that Tyson was off his line, and audaciously attempted to chip the custodian from a distance of some thirty-five yards. It was a superb strike that was only just off-target.
In the end after a tense tussle, the Mariners were forced to settle for a share of the spoils bringing the curtains down on a year which included a grand-final appearance, qualification for a second Asian Champions League berth, and a return to the top of the Hyundai A-League table.
With a return to the Bluetongue turf against the Melbourne Victory just days away on Wednesday, January 4 2012 looks set to kick-off with a mouth watering clash for Central Coast football fans.
Post match, Central Coast Mariners tactician Graham Arnold said that as soon as he saw Gold Coast’s teamsheet today, he knew his team would be in for a difficult challenge.
“We knew it was going to be a day of trying to break them down,” Arnold said. “(The) danger was on the counter-attack. We had to make sure we kept a number of players behind the ball.
“It’s what we looked at during the week and what we were worried about.”
The draw extended Central Coast’s unbeaten run this Hyundai A-League campaign to 10 matches. And Arnold was swift to praise his players for a stellar 2011.
“Overall I’m very proud of the boys,” he said. “2011 has been a fantastic year.
“The boys have been fantastic, but tomorrow’s a new year and tomorrow we start again.”
“The first challenge for the boys was up till Christmas to see where we were on our journey this year. Our second challenge is seven games in 24 days and that’s the first one. It’s important to pick up points,” he concluded.
Central Coast Mariners 0
Gold Coast United 0
Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (GK), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 9. Bernie IBINI (12. Troy HEARFIELD 71’), 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 18. Alex WILKINSON (C), 19. Matt SIMON, 22. Mustafa AMINI (2. Daniel McBREEN 65’)
Subs not Used: 20. Justin PASFIELD (GK), 16. Trent SAINSBURY
Yellow Cards: Hutchinson 51’, Bojic 58’, Zwaanswijk 83’
Red Cards: None
Gold Coast United: 20. Jerrad TYSON (GK), 3. Michael THWAITE (C), 4. Zachary ANDERSON (28. Daniel BOWLES 83’), 13. Ante ROZIC, 14. Ben HALLORAN, 15. Adama TRAORE, 16. Maceo RIGTERS, 18. James BROWN, 22. Peter JUNGSCHLAGER, 23. Dylan McGOWAN, 24. Jonas SALLEY
Subs not Used: 40. Chris O’CONNOR (GK), 7. Golgol MEBRAHTU, 17. Chris HAROLD
Yellow Cards: Brown 70’, Salley 90 + 4’
Red Cards: None
Referee: Ryan SHEPHEARD
Crowd: 14, 838 at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford