Mariners lose contentious F3 Derby

CENTRAL Coast Mariners unbeaten start to the 2012/13 Hyundai A-League season came to an end at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night.

CENTRAL Coast Mariners unbeaten start to the 2012/13 Hyundai A-League season came to an end at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night. In controversial circumstances Graham Arnold-s men were defeated 2-1 by Newcastle Jets in a heated F3 Derby clash.

Jets marksman Ryan Griffiths converted a dubiously awarded penalty early in the match, before Emile Heskey doubled Newcastle-s advantage from close range in the 61st minute.

Substitute Central Coast striker Bernie Ibini netted a 71st minute goal to give the Mariners hope of snatching a late equaliser, and while the yellow and navy did come home the stronger of the two sides and control the majority of the game from a footballing perspective, they couldn-t quite manage to restore parity to the contest late on.

The tone of the match was set in the opening minute of play when Ruben Zadkovich launched a dangerous challenge on Joshua Rose. With James Virgili holding on to Rose-s shirt, Zadkovich flew in with a studs up challenge that referee Ben Williams deemed only worthy of a yellow ticket. The intent of the tackle perhaps suggested that a red card could have been brandished. Further indiscretions by Zadkovich as the match played out went unpunished by referee Williams.

In the fourth minute Williams awarded the Jets a controversial penalty. Competing for the ball, Heskey and New Zealand international Michael McGlinchey clattered into one another in the box. The referee adjudged McGlinchey to have fouled the burly marksman. Griffiths made no mistake with the subsequent spot kick, firing low to Mathew Ryan-s right to gift his team the lead.

After the contentious early setback the Mariners began to play some impressive football. Tomas Rogic looked especially sharp as he floated between the lines to cause the Newcastle defence problems, while Mile Sterjovski found the head of defender Trent Sainsbury via a corner. Sainsbury-s header forced a sharp save out of Jets custodian Mark Birighitti.

Roared on by a strong and passionate crowd, the two teams kept the intensity of the game high after the break. Neat interplay opened a half chance for Rogic early in the second stanza, but Birighitti dropped low to snuff out the danger.

In the 58th minute impressive defender Rose burst down the left before cutting the ball back for Sterjovski. Unfortunately for the Mariners Sterjovski just miscued his shot and the ball went wide of the Newcastle goal.

Just three minutes later Virgili produced a dazzling run down the right side before crossing for Heskey. The former England international made no mistake in prodding the ball into the back of the net from close range.

Ibini looked dangerous from the moment he entered the match and in the 71st minute the Nigerian born attacking ace scored the Mariners the goal they needed to get back in the match. The ball fell kindly to Ibini following a touch from McGlinchey, and the lanky marksman had no trouble in finding the back of the net.

The Mariners continued to press in search of an equaliser, and threw everything bar the kitchen sink at the home team. Indeed, the yellow and navy were convinced they-d restored parity to the clash deep in injury time when Patrick Zwaanswijk headed a long ball into the back of the net. However the assistant referee poured cold water on the Mariners- celebrations, raising his flag to complete a frustrating evening for Arnold-s team.

In the post match press conference Arnold said that despite the defeat he was pleased with the way his team performed at Hunter Stadium.

“I thought it was a fantastic performance by the boys," Arnold said. "A good derby, a lot of action, and I was very happy with our performance overall.”

"Our combinations, our movement was first class. So if we continue to play like that, and we will do, then I can-t see why we won-t be successful again this year.”

Arnold was reluctant to be drawn too far into the debate that will undoubtedly follow in the coming days in regards to the performance of the match officials.

“The three incidents that happened in the first five minutes turned the match," he said.

“It-s disappointing but penalties come and go, and you get good decisions, bad decisions throughout the year."

"But as I just said to the players, I judge the team on their performance and the performance was fantastic."

Newcastle Jets 2 (Griffiths 5-, Heskey 61-) Central Coast Mariners 1 (Ibini 71-) Hunter Stadium, Newcastle

Newcastle Jets: 20. Mark Birighitti (Gk), 3. Tiago Calvano, 4. Josh Mitchell, 5. Dominik Ritter, 8. Ruben Zadkovich, 9. Emile Heskey (6. Ben Kantarovski 80'), 14. Taylor Regan (12. Joshua Brillante 70-), 15. Craig Goodwin, 16. Jobe Wheelhouse (c), 17. James Virgili (22. Adam Taggart 84'), 23. Ryan Griffiths

Subs not Used: 1. Ben Kennedy (Gk)

Yellow Cards: Zadkovich, Virgili, Heskey, Mitchell

Red Cards: None

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew Ryan (Gk), 2. Daniel McBreen, 3. Joshua Rose, 4. Pedj Bojic, 6. Patrick Zwaanswijk, 7. John Hutchinson (c), 10. Tomas Rogic (5. Zac Anderson 88'), 14. Michael McGlinchey, 16. Trent Sainsbury, 18. Nick Montgomery (12. Troy Hearfield 83'), 21. Mile Sterjovski (9. Bernie Ibini 58-)

Subs not Used: 20. Justin Pasfield (Gk)

Yellow Cards: McGlinchey, Bojic, McBreen

Red Cards: None

Referee: Ben Williams

Crowd: 15,289