VAR controversy was the major talking point of Saturday night’s clash between the Central Coast Mariners and the Western Sydney Wanderers where the visitors emerged 2-0 winners over a brave Mariners team reduced to nine men.
Central Coast Mariners 0 Western Sydney Wanderers 2 (Santalab 27’ & Cejudo 50’)
The run down
The Mariners welcomed back Spanish striker, Asdrubal, but were still missing the midfield mastermind, Tom Hiariej who succumbed to injury last week.
Western Sydney coach Josep Gombau elected to keep captain Robbie Cornthwaite on the bench, after he missed a training session earlier in the week which saw Mark Bridge wear the captain’s armband
The Mariners started strong in the first half, barely two minutes passed before Andrew Hoole made an ambitious run up the middle, but his strike was denied by a last-minute clearance from Aspropotamitis who came across in cover defence. “Hooley” had a hand in the next opportunity for the Yellow and Navy, a scramble by the post between Asdrubal and Hoole scooped up by Janjetovic. Similar to the Mariners last home game against Perth Glory, Jake McGing was a revelation on the right.
From there, the Wanderers regained the momentum that they had been missing in the Sydney derby last week, taking control of possession, and a quick counter attack allowed Brendon Santalab fire home from outside the area.
A meeting between these two teams is always fiery, and the first half had bookings to match the physicality of the game. Santalab and Risdon each received a yellow card, and Liam Rose was the first Mariner with a booking.
The Yellow and Navy continued to press for opportunities as the first half drew to a close. Fancy footwork from Hoole in the middle of the park found McGing on the right wing, whose perfect cross to the far post came just a second too soon for Danny De Silva, and an exceptional save from the Wanderers keeper denied Connor Pain from sending a neat chip curling into the top corner.
With the Mariners opportunities going unrewarded, they headed into the sheds at half time trailing 1-0.
Returning in the second stanza, the Wanderers did not delay in doubling their lead. Five minutes into the second half, another Red and Black counter attack culminated in a sharp finish from Spanish striker Cejudo.
In response, Asdrubal teamed up with Danny De Silva, sending through a brilliant pass to give the number 10 an opportunity in front of goal, but De Silva couldn’t quite bend the ball inside the far post.
From the 55th minute, the game became dominated by yellow cards. Across the second half, referee Alex King handed out a total of five yellow cards, all to Western Sydney players: Bonevacia, Llorente, Cejudo, Riera and Bridge.
However, the talking point of the second half was undeniably the VAR. In the 61st minute, Wout Brama was awarded a yellow card for a challenge on Bonevacia, but the decision went to the VAR for review, where it was decided to instead issue the Dutch midfielder a straight red card, much to the disbelief of Mariners fans.
Then tragedy struck for the Central Coast again in the 77th minute, when a yellow card given to McGing for a challenge on Baccus was sent for video review, and the referee made the decision to again exchange the yellow card for a red.
Now down to nine men, the Central Coast rallied for the last minutes of the game. Captain Alan Baro took a fierce long-range volley that deflected for a goal kick, and Josh Rose capped off an ambitious run with a powerful shot that just curled over the crossbar.
Despite their best efforts, a severely depleted Mariners squad couldn’t fight their way onto the scoresheet, and the Wanderer’s held onto their 2-0 lead until the final whistle.
27’ SANTALAB (0-1): Wanderers were merciless on the counter attack, keeper Janjetovic sent the ball out to Mark Bridge, who fed to the top of the box where Santalab was waiting to shoot past Kennedy into the bottom right corner.
50’ CEJUDO (0-2): The Red and Black struck on the counter again. Baccus charged through the midfield and played onto Santalab, who slid a tidy ball across for Spanish Cejudo to finish.
Paolo in the press
“I just don’t understand it [VAR],” Okon said. “If both challenges were violent, I think we would have seen protests from the Wanderers players or the Wanderers bench, and they were in front. There was no reaction, the reaction came from the gentleman sitting upstairs.
“I can’t logically explain it. If you came to this game tonight, and you left no longer in love with football, who could blame you. I don’t want to take anything away from the Wanderers, but it was disappointing.
“Before VAR wasn’t there, everyone wanted it, everyone was for it, but if you’re going to get it wrong, consistently, then I don’t know. I think it’s probably what everyone is talking about.
“If you’re going to send off players for those two challenges, you’d be sending players off every minute of the game. Roly falls over, Baccus falls over, but the reaction of the Wanderers players and the Wanderers bench, they were bemused as to why the game wasn’t restarting. There wasn’t one protest.
“I have to thank our fans for their support. Even when we lost one, we kept going, and when we lost two, it was impossible. We still had moments, and we had a big opportunity to score with Daniel. We were still in the game, we had the better chances, I can’t remember Ben Kennedy having to make one save, so, the real upsetting thing is we lose these two players for our next game, which is totally unfair, so hopefully the FFA will review it, and admit that they weren’t deserving of a send-off, and allow those two players to play in our next game away to Adelaide. Hopefully the people who hold the power will bring it to justice.
“We’re disappointed with the way we gave the two goals, we needed to be better. It’s those key moments of the game that you need to deal with. I’ve got no arguments regarding that, we were poor in those two moments. Other than that, I think we probably could have handled the ball better in the first half, they applied a lot of pressure on us, so I give credit to them. Every time we managed to keep the ball we looked dangerous and managed to create opportunities. We tried and tried, and kept going with nine men, but it was always going to be difficult,” Okon said.
Central Coast Mariners: 1.Ben KENNEDY(gk), 3.Josh ROSE, 4.Jake McGING, 5.Antony GOLEC, 7.Andrew HOOLE, 9. ASDRUBAL (8.Blake POWELL 65’) 10. Danny De SILVA, 11. Connor PAIN (13. Kwabena APPIAH 81’), 15. Alan BARO, 16. Liam ROSE (2. Storm ROUX 65’), 23. Wout BRAMA
Substitutes not used: 18.Tom GLOVER (gk) & 14.Adam BERRY
Yellow cards: L. Rose 39’
Red cards: Brama 63’ & McGing 79’
Western Sydney Wanderers: 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 4.Josh RISDON, 8.Roly BONEVACIA (15.Kearyn BACCUS 70’),10.Álvaro CEJUDO, 11.Brendon SANTALAB (9.Oriol RIERA 72’), 14.Jumpei KUSUKAMI (3.Jack CLISBY 83’), 19.Mark BRIDGE, 22.Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 24.Raúl LLORENTE, 33.Michael THWAITE, 42.Keanu BACCUS
Substitutes not used: 30.John HALL (gk),18.Robbie CORNTHWAITE
Yellow cards: Santalab 6’, Risdon 45+2’, Bonevacia 55’, Llorente 64’, Cejudo 75’, Riera 90+3’, Bridge 90+6’
Saturday, 16 December 2017
Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Central Coast Mariners vs. Western Sydney Wanderers