Birthday boy nets winner as Mariners down Sydney

The Central Coast Mariners have extended their unbeaten streak to a dozen matches, picking up three very valuable points on the road with a 1-nil victory over Sydney FC. A first half strike from Oliver Bozanic on his 23rd birthday was enough to get the job done in their Week 14 Hyundai A-League fixture, despite a late flurry of chances for the hosts.

The Central Coast Mariners have extended their unbeaten streak to a dozen matches, picking up three very valuable points on the road with a 1-nil victory over Sydney FC. A first half strike from Oliver Bozanic on his 23rd birthday was enough to get the job done in their Week 14 Hyundai A-League fixture, despite a late flurry of chances for the hosts.

Mariners mentor Graham Arnold was proud of the performance of his players in the opening half especially considering their current workload, but conceded that his charges should have taken advantage of their opportunities to put Sydney away earlier.

“I said to the boys that the Mariners know two ways to win. One is to play good football, and we also know how to grind out a result. The first 40 minutes was a fantastic performance and we probably could have had two or three goals. Liam Reddy came up with a great save in the second half off Bernie that would have made it 2-nil as well,” Arnold said.

“After having to back up from Wednesday night against Melbourne Victory, and having three games in a week, I-m very proud of the players.”

Highlighting the steeliness and determination that has become the hallmark of the surge up the table, Arnold again stressed the importance of keeping focused in what is a very close competition.

“It-s one game at a time, and we don-t need to look at the table. We need to play each game on its merit and then at the back end of the season we can have a look at the table. Our concentration is on performance and to be consistent, and I think we-ve shown some good consistency since I-ve been at the club.”

Arnold believes that the week-s break before taking on Newcastle has come at an opportune time for his charges, particularly for the younger players in the squad.

“Thankfully we-ve got 5 days before we play Newcastle so it-s a chance for the boys to freshen up. There is no rotation system in place but we-ve asked for an honesty system where the players fill out forms and tell us how they-re feeling body-wise and overall.

“They-re being honest, especially the younger boys. Bernie and Musti told us on Wednesday night that they didn-t feel they could play 90 so we started them off the bench and got some good energy out of them, and they started today and did well,” said Arnold.

Determined to continue their good form, the Mariners showed no signs of weariness from their mid-week meeting with Melbourne Victory as they began the match full of running. Graham Arnold opted for experience up front as Daniel McBreen started in Matt Simon-s vacated striking spot, and Patrick Zwaanswijk returned from suspension. Both players started the game strongly with McBreen making a strong early run into the box after a great ball from the Dutchman.

The opening exchanges was a stop-start affair as Sydney FC conceded a number of fouls in an effort to breakup a formidable attacking line-up. Eventually in the 9th minute Pedj Bojic seized on a loose ball deep in Sydney territory and picked out an unmarked Olly Bozanic who slotted home for his first goal of the campaign. The ball took a slight deviation off a prone Sydney FC defender, but not enough to warrant an own goal, and the Olyroo-s captain was able to celebrate his 23rd birthday in style.

Bernie Ibini had a chance to double the Mariner-s advantage after 15 minutes when he was able to break away after a delightful pass from McBreen. His shirt was tugged by a Sydney defender, and may have slightly impeded his run, but to his credit the marksman stayed on his feet unleashed a powerful shot that was well-saved by Liam Reddy. From the resulting corner Zwannswijk headed over the bar after easily evading his marker.

A compact defensive structure from Josh Rose, Zwaanswijk, Alex Wilkinson and Bojic meant that Sydney simply couldn-t get into any good position to try and test Mathew Ryan. There first chance came after 25 minutes from the boot of Nick Carle, but the shot had no real venom in it and was easily defused by the Mariners shot-stopper.

Rose pressed forward and was giving the midfield of Hutchinson, McGlinchey, Amini, and Bozanic a wide target to aim at and he unleashed a curling strike at the midway point of the half that just failed to hit the target.

The Mariners consolidated possession for most of the half, and were all over Sydney quickly frustrating any chances the Sky Blues had to wrestle momentum back from the league-leaders.

One of the highlights was the intriguing battle between Bernie Ibini and former Mariner-s stalwart Michael Beauchamp. The tussle between wily defender and electric striker was fairly evenly matched as Ibini-s speed was countered by Beauchamp-s positional awareness.

Sydney had one good chance as the half wound down but Brett Emerton-s pass was too heavily weighted for his supporting players, and the Mariners went to the sheds a goal to the good.

Whatever the Sydney FC coaching staff said to their charges at the break clearly struck a chord with the home side as they came out firing in the initial stages of the second half. Nick Carle and Karol Kisel combined for a half-chance, before Carle appealed for a penalty that was rightly turned down by Jarred Gillet. While Carle continued his protestations, Michael McGlinchey set about counter-attacking and was able to make 60 metres before eventually being run down by the covering defence.

Carle was at it again after 50 minutes, but was thwarted by a courageous save by Ryan. The young custodian alert to the danger dived in front of an outstretched Carle and copped a nasty knock on his knee for his troubles. The Sydney midfielder also limped out of the challenge, but after some hasty repairs both players were able to continue the match.

Bozanic went close to doubling his tally with a first-time volley after some good lead up play from Bojic. Had he scored the match would have conceivably been out of reach for Sydney FC. John Hutchinson nearly managed to sneak a goal with a free header on the hour mark after beating his marker from a McGlinchey corner.

It marked a flurry of goal scoring chances for both sides. Troy Hearfield showed a clean pair of heels and delivered a well-timed cross to Ibini who hit the ball sweetly first time. Ibini-s powerful strike was thwarted by a reflex save from Reddy. Two minutes later Kisel took a shot at Ryan-s goal but was unable to trouble the glove-man.

As the match wound down Sydney became more desperate throwing everything at a well-drilled Mariners defensive unit. The introduction of Mark Bridge sparked Sydney-s revival, and Mat Ryan pulled off another outstanding save to deny a promising attack from Carle and Bridge. Showing that he shrugged off the after-effects of the knock to his knee, he also showed plenty of speed late in the match to beat a flying Dimitri Petratos to the ball.

Mustafa Amini unleashed a few powerful strikes from distance as the Mariners went in search for an elusive goal, but it was his vision to pick out Rose with a pin-point pass from 40 metres that brought the travelling supporters to their feet.

With five minutes of time added on Sydney had one final chance to get a point from the game, but Ryan was again able to thwart Bridge meaning that the Mariners were able to earn the three points.

Speaking after the match the goal scorer, and birthday boy Oliver Bozanic was happy that the team had managed to achieve success during what has been a grueling period for the team.

“It-s was great to get a win and to score as well. We played well in the first 30 minutes, but then Sydney started to get into the game which made it a bit tougher, and then in the second half we were under the pump a bit as well,” said Bozanic.

“It-s been tough we-ve played three games this week so our legs are a bit sore and tired, but it was a good performance considering how many games we-ve played.”

The Central Coast Mariners will continue their 2011/12 Hyundai A-League campaign with the F3 derby against the Newcastle Jets next Saturday, 14 January at Bluetongue Stadium. Kick-off is 5:30pm AEST.

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 1 (Bozanic 9-) Sydney FC 0

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (GK), 2. Daniel McBREEN (12. Troy HEARFIELD 60-), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWANNSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 9. Bernie Ibini (23. Adam KWASNIK 77-), 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael McGlinchey, 18. Alex Wilkinson (C), 22. Mustafa Amini (16. Trent SAINSBURY 90 +3-)

Subs not Used: 20. Justin PASFIELD (GK).

Yellow Cards: Bojic 55-

Red Cards: None

Sydney FC: 1. Liam REDDY (GK), 2. Sebastian RYALL (12. Shannon COLE 60-), 4. Pascal BOSSCHAART, 5. Michael BEAUCHAMP, 7. Brett EMERTON, 8. Karol KISEL (11. Dimitri PETRATOS), 9. Bruno CAZARINE (19. Mark Bridge 46-), 10. Nick CARLE, 15. Terry McFLYNN (C), 17. Terry ANTONIS, 23. Rhyan GRANT.

Subs not Used: 20.Ivan NECEVSKI (GK).

Yellow Cards: Ryall 13-

Red Cards: None

Referee: Jarred GILLETT

Crowd: 11,866 at Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney