Buhagiar stars in NYE spectacle at Central Coast Stadium

Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne City have put on a show for football fans in Gosford on New Year’s Eve, with both sides coming from behind in a heart-stopping 2-2 draw.

In a match that proved to be somewhat of an arm-wrestle in the opening exchanges Tim Cahill headed City in front before the interval with a regulation header.

After holding majority of the field position in the opening stages the home side capitalised in the second half with two goals in eight minutes from Trent Buhagiar and Roy O’Donovan that saw Central Coast Stadium explode thanks to the 11 thousand strong crowd. 

With the Mariners holding the lead it looked certain to end in New Year’s Eve delight for the Yellow & Navy but there was still late drama to follow on the waterfront.

It seemed certain to fall the way of the Mariners’ when leading scorer, Roy O’Donovan had a strong chance to bank a quick-fire double but was unable to connect from just a couple of yards out leaving the home fans on the edge of their seats.

Instead Paul Okon’s side were left to rue that miss after City earned a late penalty that was buried emphatically by Bruno Fornaroli to earn a share of the points.

Despite the Tim Cahill header, our Umina junior, Trent Buhagiar emerged as the star of the show who left Central Coast Stadium with a goal and assist to his name in front of many family members and friends.

Second to Trent Buhagiar though was another star on the night. After Cahill’s opener he prepared for the trademark corner flag celebration. Before Cahill could unleash his left-right-left the ball boy swooped in to save the corner flag.

Full attention now turns to next week’s clash against Graham Arnold’s Sydney FC at Central Coast Stadium. Kick-off is 5:00pm next Sunday and thanks to Brightfield Group Services we will be wearing pink in support of women’s cancer research.

0-1 Melbourne City: Tim Cahill, 40’

An inviting cross from Bruce Kamau was met by the charging run of Cahill who left his marker behind and headed home from close range giving Paul Izzo no chance.

1-1 Central Coast Mariners: Trent Buhagiar, 77’

Substitute Fabio Ferreira scooted downfield on the counter before laying the ball off for the 18-year-old, who struck it sweetly into the near top corner. What a finish!

2-1 Central Coast Mariners: Roy O’Donovan, 85’

Some swift ball movement from the home side sent Buhagiar clear down the flank to this time play creator before squaring the ball to O’Donovan who fired home from close range.

2-2 Melbourne City: Bruno Fornaroli pen; 90’

Substitute Daniel Arzani earned City a penalty when he was brought down in the box, with Fornaroli stepping up and firing the spot-kick straight down the middle to level the scores.

Paolo in the press

“I thought we were more than worthy of three points,” Okon said. “The performance of the players tonight was extraordinary. That performance is what this club is about and that is what the club was built on.

“Going into this game we were concerned about the short turnaround but the effort of the players was magnificent and there is a little bit of disappointment there. Roy had the chance to make it 3-1 with a couple of minutes to go that probably would have seen us take three points but it wasn’t to be.

“For us now moving forward the hope is that we can be able to repeat that performance again and again or even get close to it.

“We end the year in a positive way after some negative results and hopefully we start 2017 with a game here at home against Sydney FC in front of a big crowd. The support here tonight was amazing and we are really proud to end it this way.

“We haven’t been able to replicate these performances week in week out, whether that’s because we’re a young squad, that’s always difficult to do with younger players but that’s the target, that’s the conversation I’ve just had with the players.

“We will celebrate the end of the year, we will take a point but we can’t wait to get back to training on Tuesday to start working towards some points against Sydney FC.

“That performance was what we hoped Trent would deliver and he did do that. We’re delighted for him, I’m not sure he was meant to hit it as sweet as he did, I haven’t seen him hit one like that at training. We know he’s an exciting talent.

“Tonight was our strongest bench, Fab was unbelievable when he came on and we need that. Every team needs that. We want competition, it means that we’re pushing each other and that means we win more games.

“That’s professional football, the players have to deal with that and it now gives me something to think about and plenty of decisions to make ahead of Sydney,” Okon said. 

Central Coast Mariners: 20.Paul IZZO (gk), 3.Scott GALLOWAY, 5.Harry ASCROFT, 6.Blake POWELL (11.Connor PAIN 77’), 8.Nick MONTGOMERY (c), 9.Roy O’DONOVAN, 12.Trent BUHAGIAR, 13.Kwabena APPIAH (7.Fabio FERREIRA 68’), 14.Adam BERRY, 19.Jacques FATY (1.Micahel NEILL 6’), 22.Jake McGING

Substitutes not used: 1.Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 10.Mickael TAVARES

Yellow cards: Berry 70’

Melbourne City FC: 20.Dean BOUZANIS (gk), 5.Ivan FRANJIC, 8.Neil KILKENNY, 9.Nicolas COLAZO, 10.Anthony CACERES, 11.Bruce KAMAU, 12.Nick FITZGERALD (14.Daniel ARZANI 68’),17.Tim CAHILL (34.Denis GENREAU 64’ ), 21. Ruon TONGYIK, 23.Bruno FORNAROLI (c), 26.Luke BRATTAN

Substitutes not used: 1.Thomas SORENSEN (gk), 4.Connor CHAPMAN, 18.Paulo RETRE

Yellow cards: Kamau 30’ Brattan 64’

Sunday 31 December, 2016
Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Central Coast Mariners vs. Melbourne City FC
Attendance: 11 184
Referee: Jonathan Barreiro