Mariners held in exciting opener

Central Coast Mariners started the Hyundai A-League 2013/14 season with a 1-1 draw against Western Sydney Wanderers at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday.

Central Coast Mariners started the Hyundai A-League 2013/14 season with a 1-1 draw against Western Sydney Wanderers at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday.

Having led for most of the second half courtesy of an exceptionally well-worked goal between new signing Marcos Flores and winger Mitchell Duke in the 55th minute, it looked as if victory would be there for the yellow and navy.

However a Tomi Juric strike in the 87th minute levelled the scores and that is the way the tightly contested match ultimately finished.

The first half was a tense affair with both sides getting a feel for the tempo of the game in hot conditions on a slick Bluetongue Stadium pitch.

In the tenth minute Nick Fitzgerald won a free kick on the edge of the area, and Flores nearly made the Wanderers pay the ultimate price by curling the ball around the wall and forcing a save from a sprawled out Ante Covic.

Flores, who delivered a stellar performance in his first time in yellow, would go close again ten minutes later. His well-struck shot was on target but was blocked on its way to goal.

In between those events Mariners goalkeeper Justin Pasfield produced a string of stunning saves which culminated with a fine stop from a Mark Bridge effort. Following Pasfield-s heroics, Youssouf Hersi spooned a shot over the bar.

The only other chance of note in the first 45 saw Mile Sterjovski spray a difficult chance on the volley over the bar.

It would take the Mariners less than ten minutes into the second period to crack the Wanderers. The ball that put Duke through on goal from Flores was top shelf, as was the finish from the pacey 22-year-old who deftly chipped it past Covic to make the score 1-0.

Central Coast Mariners fan favourite Matt Simon was introduced to the match in the 66th minute and he was given a rapturous reception on his return to the Club. Although the dangerous marksman did not score, he was the busy striker of old.

Wanderers coach Tony Popovic introduced Shinji Ono and Juric to the match and it was the latter who would ultimately have the bigger impact on proceedings.

Pasfield was forced into a string of important saves in the Mariners- goal and though he would sensationally turn away a Mark Bridge volley as well as a Shinji Ono free kick, he could do nothing to keep out a Juric-s late strike. After jostling with Joshua Rose on the wing, Hersi sent a cross into the box that Juric tucked home.

Following the contest Central Coast Mariners Head Coach, Graham Arnold, said he-s sure his side will continue to get better as the season goes on.

“I think that you can put the goal that we conceded down to the fact that we ran out of legs,” he said. “We had a late start because of the ACL (2013 AFC Champions League), and at one stage I had four players putting their hand up to come off.”

“(But) overall I think it was a good point. We-re disappointed we didn-t keep the three, but it was a good point. We-re still a work in progress, so we-ve got to be happy with that.”

Arnold offered praise to rookie right-back Storm Roux, who enjoyed a solid debut for the Club in front of 17,134 supporters.

“Storm was outstanding,” he said. “He had a really good game and I thought he would have been close to man of the match. He kept Mark Bridge quiet and got over the top and showed a lot of energy.”

On Flores- performance, Arnold said: “I thought Marcos was back to the Marcos Flores that we all know. Once the front players get used to what he-s doing and start getting on the same wavelength as Marcos than I am sure we will get better and better.”

Central Coast Mariners- next Hyundai A-League 2013/14 fixture is against Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park, Melbourne on Saturday 19 October, 2013. Kick-off in Victoria is at 5:30pm AEST.

Central Coast Mariners 1 (Duke 55-) Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Juric 87-) Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 3. Joshua ROSE, 5. Zachary ANDERSON (4. Marcel SEIP 79-), 7. John HUTCHINSON (C), 8. Nick MONTGOMERY, 9. Mitchell DUKE, 10. Marcos FLORES (17. Anthony CACERES 79-), 11. Nick FITZGERALD, 15. Storm ROUX, 16. Trent SAINSBURY, 21. Mile STERJOVSKI (19. Matt SIMON 66-) Substitutes not used: 6. Brent GRIFFITHS, 12. Liam REDDY (Gk) Yellow cards: Nick MONTGOMERY Red cards: Nil

Western Sydney Wanderers: 1. Ante COVIC (Gk), 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 5. Michael BEAUCHAMP (C), 6. Jerome POLENZ, 7. Labinot HALITI (9. Tomi JURIC 52-), 8. Mateo POLJAK (21. Shinji ONO 52-), 10. Aaron MOOY, 17. Youssouf HERSI, 19. Mark BRIDGE (11. Brendon SANTALAB 85-), 18. Iacopo LA ROCCA Substitutes not used: 20. Jerrad TYSON (Gk), 22. Dean HEFFERNAN Yellow cards: Mateo POLJAK Red cards: Nil

Attendance: 17,134 Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones