Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne City played out a 1-1 draw at Oakes Oval in Lismore on Sunday afternoon, and as a result will share the 2014 Craig Foster Cup named in honour of one of Lismore’s favourite sons, former Socceroo turned SBS chief football analyst, Craig Foster.
After a first half largely dominated by John van’t Schip’s match-hardened charges, the Mariners enjoyed plenty of positive periods of play in the second 45, and perhaps could have even snatched a winner in the game had they shown just slightly more cutting edge in front of goal.
Dutch defender Rob Wielaert, who impressed in his first campaign in the Hyundai A-League last season, scored the opening goal of the contest in the 56th minute of play. Wielaert connected purposefully with Aaron Mooy’s free kick as City executed a move from the training ground with precision.
But just two minutes later Wielaert brought down Central Coast Mariners midfield ace Anthony Caceres in the area, and referee Jarred Gillett duly award the yellow and navy the opportunity to restore parity to the contest from 12 yards. Up stepped Senegalese international Malick Mané, and the on-loan IFK Göteborg frontman made no mistake in sending former Mariners custodian Andrew Redmayne the wrong way to make the score 1-1.
Indeed, Sunday 7 September 2014 - Father’s Day, no less - will forever be a day to remember for Mané, as just hours earlier his girlfriend in Senegal gave birth to a baby girl, Fatou bintou Mané. Mané celebrated with a tribute to his daughter and girlfriend, and will now head back to Africa this week to see his family.
As the clock wound down both teams ventured forward in a bid to net a winner, however efforts from Richárd Vernes and Caceres went just wide from the Mariners’ perspective.
Although on the surface it would seem that Mariners boss Phil Moss would have been disappointed with his team’s performance in the first 45, the Central Coast mentor said that being made to chase Melbourne City and defend would have benefits for his side in the long run.
“I’m not overly disappointed with the first half,” Moss said post match. “I think defensively it was a fantastic exercise, because we couldn’t get hold of the ball. Melbourne City controlled the first half, there’s no doubt about that, and that’s on the back of some very big sessions for us this week.”
“The objective for the week for us was to get some real training loads into the boys. We’ve been hampered by wet weather back home, so to come here and have the sun shine and a great training facility, we really put some miles into the boys legs on the training pitch and second half I think we start to see the fruits of that labour with the ball.”
“First half I was happy with the exercise and we probably got real benefit match fitness wise because we were chasing the ball for long periods.”
Indeed, Moss said that he expected City to be in hot form given the sheer amount of competitive matches their squad has already played, combined with the chance to utilise Manchester City’s training facilities for three weeks and venture to a camp in the Northern Territory.
“If you look at it in the cold hard light of day they (Melbourne City) have probably played eight really competitive games and that was out first really competitive game if you don’t take into account the FFA Cup,” he said. “So overall I am really happy with where we are at and to come home with a wet sail in the second half physically was good. There was some patches of real quality in the second half in the way that we played with the ball.”
Moss was also pleased with the contributions of his two new foreign players, Mané who started the match, and Vernes who came on as a substitute in the second 45.
“They needed a run and Richie wasn’t ready to start the game, Malick was,” he said. “We got 60 good minutes out of Malick and he will be better for the run both from a physical point view and his understanding tactically.”
“Richie came on second half and showed some real quality and probably could have had two or maybe three goals.”
The Mariners will return to the Central Coast on Monday, and have fixtures against Brisbane Roar (friendly), Olympic FC (Westfield FFA Cup), and Newcastle Jets (friendly) coming up over the next fortnight.
The Club also wishes to publicly thank Lismore Council and Tourism, as well as Football Far North Coast and the people of the region for their hospitality and help throughout the Club’s weeklong camp in Lismore.
Melbourne City FC 1 (Rob Wielaert 56')
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Malick Mane 57')
Venue: Oakes Oval, Lismore