The Central Coast Mariners returned to action after the bye on Saturday night, but fell to a loss at the hands of Sydney FC as Kosta Barbarouses’ early strike proved to be the difference.
Mariners coach Alen Stajcic made three changes to the visitors with Eunsun Kim captaining the side in place of Tommy Oar and top scorer Milan Ðurić returning fit to start after two weeks on the bench. New signing Jair made his full debut for the Yellow & Navy coming in up top in place of Matt Simon.
The Mariners enjoyed a strong spell of possession early, but were brought undone as Rhyan Grant got in behind from a quick free-kick, and his cross found Barbarouses with time and space to finish.
The visitors pushed back immediately and were denied a quick response by a diving savefrom Andrew Redmayne. A free kick from the left was half cleared to Danny DeSilva on the edge of the area, however the Mariners winger saw his rising volley acrobatically tipped over by the home goalkeeper.
As the half wore on neither side came too close to adding to the scoreline with the majority of the play in the middle third of the pitch, and Mariners’ debutant Jair looked lively and had a few good touches as he settled in to his first start with the club.
Moments before half time the scores were almost level. A neat interception by Giancarlo Gallifuoco saw possession worked out wide to Sammy Silvera on the right. With time and space the youngster crossed into the home box for Jair to meet low with a flicked header but it flew agonisingly wide past the post.
The second half began with the Mariners determined to put up a fight and forced a free kick 25 yards out when DeSilva was brought down cynically by Luke Brattan. Ðurić stepped up to strike however his dipping effort was smothered by Redmayne; denying the Serbian his fourth goal this season.
With half an hour remaining Sydney pressed forward searching for the elusive second goal that would put the game to bed. A splitting ball from midfielder Alexander Baumjohann found Milos Ninkovic through on goal but he fired wide while under pressure from Ziggy Gordon.
Stajcic made changes, and youngster Dylan Ruiz-Diaz came on alongside Matt Simon after 72 minutes for Jair and Ðurić as the Mariners continued to push the hosts for an equaliser.
The hosts held on despite the best efforts of the Mariners’ attack with Redmayne the hero saving a goal bound Giancarlo Gallifuoco header from point blank at the death and in the process securing the three points for the Sky Blues.
Attentions now turn to next Sunday, with a big home clash against Adelaide United. Get your tickets for that game now!
While you're here, you may wish to take the time to support former Mariner Andrew Gumprecht and his wife Carina, who has been diagnosed with Cancer. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help assist them through this time. Click here to support their family.
Gumprecht made 63 appearances for the Mariners across four seasons, scoring three goals.