Central Coast Mariners and Adelaide have played out a goalless, yet entertaining 0-0 draw in the first round of the Foxtel National Youth League (NYL) 2013/14 season in Tuggerah on Sunday.
In hot conditions on the New South Wales Central Coast, the fixture between Patrick Zwaanswijk's boys and Michael Valkanis's juniors Reds was played at a surprisingly sharp tempo, with both sides enjoying sound opportunities to claim all three points.
With both Graham Arnold and Josep Gombau in attendance at the match to monitor their youth players as well as the sprinkling of Hyundai A-League professionals participating in the contest, it was clear all players were keen to make their mark in the opening round of Australia's premier youth competition.
Indeed, one of the standouts for Mariners Youth in the fixture was former Wollongong Wolves attacking midfielder Joshua Bingham.
Just 16 minutes into his first Foxtel NYL appearance for the Club, Bingham turned his marker before firing a shot at goal from an acute angle.
Adelaide Youth custodian Paul Izzo did well to drop low and save.
Six minutes later, Bingham showed why he could be one of the standouts for Mariners Youth in the Foxtel NYL this campaign.
Displaying fancy footwork, Bingham glided beyond his marker before sending a crisp shot over Izzo's bar.
Zwaanswijk's side were showing good fluency in their transitions from defence to attack, and ten minutes before half-time former Australian Institute of Sport scholar Patrick Dixon almost broke the deadlock.
Brent Griffiths started a flowing move from the back, which ended in Dixon just failing to poke the ball beyond Izzo from inside the area.
The first 45 was largely dominated by Mariners Youth, and two minutes before the break Bingham showed Marcos Flores-like feet to craft another opportunity for himself. Bingham's goal bound shot was blocked by Izzo, with Dixon pushing the rebound wide.
Adelaide United Youth mentor Valkanis introduced Anthony Ture and Matthew Bouzalas to the contest at the start of the second half, and it was Ture who provided a precise centre from wide on the left eight minutes into the final period.
Anthony Costa connected with Ture's cross, however couldn't generate enough power on his strike to force the ball beyond Mariners Youth goalkeeper David Bradasevic.
Just two minutes later Jacob Melling fired an effort just wide of Bradasevic's goal from a one-on-one opportunity.
The game settled throughout the middle part of the second stanza however came back to life in the final 15 minutes of the contest.
Indeed, Mariners Youth substitute Nathan Verity had a good opportunity to score in the 75th minute, however his shot on the turn following Michael Neill's pass was well saved by the impressive Izzo.
With seven minutes to play, Melling cracked a fierce, low shot from distance at goal.
With Bradasevic sprawled to his left, the ball whizzed past the post.
Having played in the Hyundai A-League for Adelaide United for the first time on Saturday, Ryan Kitto's confidence levels were seemingly high.
Kitto tried his luck with just three minutes left on referee Stephen Lucas's watch, but Bradasevic reacted sharply catch the midfielder's drive from distance.
Izzo pulled off fantastic stop in time added on to deny Mariners Youth and prove why he's represented Australia at under-20 level.
The ball bobbled about in the area after a free kick was lifted into the box. Sensing an opportunity to win the game, Dixon sent a powerful low shot at goal.
However, Izzo was keen to keep his clean sheet, and produced yet another great stop to ensure Zwaanswijk's team and Valkanis's charges had to settle for an opening round Foxtel NYL draw.
Central Coast Mariners 0
Adelaide United Youth 0
@ Central Coast Mariners Centre of Excellence, Tuggerah