On Good Friday the Central Coast Mariners went toe-to-toe with second place Melbourne Victory away from home but a heartbreaking goal in the final 10 minutes of play from Besart Berisha was the difference.
Melbourne Victory 1 (Berisha 80’) Central Coast Mariners 0
The Run Down
It was a gallant first half by the Central Coast Mariners who looked lively throughout the opening 45 minutes of play and challenged Victory on numerous occasions.
The left flank was where majority of the damage was being doing through Connor Pain against his old team but Kwabena Appiah showed moments of class to cause plenty of headaches for Leigh Broxham on the opposite wing.
However, the best chance of the half fell to Irish striker, Roy O’Donovan who found himself in behind the Victory back four thanks to a precision ball by Nick Montgomery. O’Donovan pulled the trigger on his one-on-one opportunity but Lawrence Thomas did well to make save with his left glove.
At the other end of the pitch, Mariners’ gloveman Paul Izzo pulled out a very impressive save of his own to deny a venomous strike by James Troisi. The 22-year-old launched himself to tip the Victory attacker’s on-target shot over the bar.
Despite half chances to both sides at either end in a gutsy first half that Mariners fans should be proud of, both teams went into the sheds on level terms at 0-0.
The Mariners came out of the box flying and had the best of the chances in the opening stages of the second half. Pain continued his hard work on the left and came close to creating a goal when he beat Jason Geria and whipped a ball into the box that was just out of O’Donovan’s reach in the 58th minute. A minute later Appiah did the same on the right but Victory were in the right place at the right time to intercept danger.
The final 30 minutes of play settled for both teams and the scene was set for Berisha to become the first player in Hyundai A-League history to score 100 career goals and take the season’s golden boot honours.
Berisha made the most of a Jai Ingham ball from inside the box and finished from close range.
For the Mariners, there was a great moment in the dying stages when 19-year-old, Coastie and Terrigal junior Lachlan Wales made his debut when he substituted on for Fabio Ferreira.
The Central Coast Mariners would like to thank the Members & fans for their support during the 2016/17 season. You have been immense.
1-0 Victory: Besart Berisha 80’
Berisha celebrated as the first player to reach 100 Hyundai A-League goals with his strike against the Mariners. Ingham played into the box and the Albanian striker fired home from close range to give his side the lead.
Paolo in the press
“I thought we had the best chance of the game in the first half through Roy and if that goes in then we don’t know how it ends up but it’s no surprise that we would put a performance in like that.
“It was a big effort against one of the best teams in a competition. I think we fatigued in the last twenty minutes and we knew that was going to happen but I am really happy for the players and the way they’ve ended their season.
“There’s part of me that thinks Victory thought they were going to put four or five past us tonight but credit to us because we didn’t let that happen. I think Kevin will be quite happy with that result, maybe he would have liked to have scored more goals but they certainly look like a dangerous team and I’m sure they will do themselves proud in the finals.
“The work started when I took over. We’ve raised the standards, hopefully our supporters have acknowledged that. We will now assess everything, make the necessary changes with the resources we have and we will come out strong next season. Hopefully people don’t assign the wooden spoon to us before a goal is kicked next season.
"Tonight was a difficult game for us because the emotions last week after a big #F3Derby were high. This week was about forgetting the result and making sure we were up for the challenge against Melbourne Victory. I think for large periods of the game we showed that we can play football.
"Overall, six wins - we were still in the hunt for a finals spot until round 24. To come here tonight against Victory and play the way we did I hope the supporters are proud of their team. That's the aim next season, to perform like we did tonight for 90 minutes for 27 rounds. We need to be more consistent next season.
"I'm a bit old school. I can't handle when you hear with 10 rounds to go that players are going here and there. I know it's inevitable, players want to secure their futures but for me it's a bit of a new experience because in national teams you don't have to deal with that type of stuff. That will all be decided now, those discussions will happen now and the tough decisions will be made on what's best for this football club. That's what will happen in the coming days.
"A can't remember a moment where I didn't pick the team based on how players trained, their attitude and what they are prepared to give to the team. I didn't notice a change in any player who was speculated to be going elsewhere or at the end of their contract and that's a credit to the group. Last week is evident of that and again tonight. I'm really fortunate to have worked with a group of players who have been super professional since day one.
"We don't have the resources of other clubs so we need to spend our money wisely which I'm confident we will do. I think we need to strengthen everywhere. We need to make sure that we find players that are going to fit into the way we want to play. With smart recruiting we can look forward to next season and really give it a crack to make finals," Okon said.
Melbourne Victory: 2.Jason GERIA, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Marco ROJAS (11.Mitch AUSTIN 78’), 8.Besart BERISHA, 10.James TROISI, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH (23.Jai INGHAM 45’), 15.Alan BARO, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.James DONACHIE, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (gk), 21.Carl VALERI (c)
Subtitutes not used: 40.Matt ACTON (gk), 4.Nick ANSELL, 22.Stefan NIGRO,
Central Coast Mariners: 20.Paul IZZO (gk), 2.Storm ROUX, 3.Scott GALLOWAY, 7.Fabio FERREIRA, (27.Lachlan WALES 88’) 8.Nick MONTGOMERY (c), 9.Roy O’DONOVAN, 11.Connor PAIN (21.Michael NEILL, 89’), 13.Kwabena APPIAH (17.Josh BINGHAM 72’), 14.Adam BERRY, 16.Liam ROSE, 22.Jake McGING
Substitutes not used: 1.Ivan NECEVSKI (gk) & 4.Jacob POSCOLIERO
Yellow cards: Berry 10’, O’Donovan 28’
Friday 14 April, 2017
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Melbourne Victory vs. Central Coast Mariners
Referee: Jarred Gillet