Central Coast Mariners’ 2014 Westfield FFA Cup run came to an end in Adelaide on Wednesday after Phil Moss’s men were defeated 3-2 in the city of churches by a slick Adelaide United outfit.
After a lacklustre first half by the yellow and navy which ended in the Reds scoring twice in the final five minutes before the break through Spaniard Sergio Cirio and youngster Awer Mabil, the Mariners showed fighting spirit in the second 45 at a hot Coopers Stadium to at least emerge from the encounter with some pride in their performance.
Indeed, Matt Simon was introduced at the break for Malick Mané and the former East Gosford Rams man took little time to make an impact in his first senior appearance for the Club this term. Just three minutes into the second period Simon ran onto a precise through-ball from fellow second half substitute Anthony Caceres, then struck a neat shot beyond Eugene Galekovic to make the score 2-1.
The substitutions and subsequent goal by Simon certainly seemed to lift the Mariners, but things took a turn for the worse for Moss and his charges shortly after. Chasing down Adelaide defender Osama Malik, Simon pulled up with what would later be revealed to be an injury to his left quadricep. While the ex-Chunnam Dragons man attempted to play on, the injury was too severe and the smart decision was made to replace him with Isaka Cernak.
Showing far more fluency in the second 45, the Mariners played higher up the pitch and looked capable of scoring a second in the match. Though, the Reds still enjoyed substantial periods of possession and their own opportunities to net another.
And Josep Gombau’s men did restore their two goal buffer in the 88th minute when Cirio nabbed his second of the night after Liam Reddy – who was otherwise strong – could only parry Mabil’s powerful drive. Cirio, the Barcelona-born baller, now has five goals in the first ever Westfield FFA Cup.
The Mariners reduced the arrears once again deep into time added on when Josh Rose marauded forward from defence to slot past Galekovic. Rose - who made a lung-busting run up the field - was played in well by the industrious Mitchell Duke and finished with aplomb.
Following the game Central Coast Mariners boss Phil Moss lamented his side’s poor showing in the first 45 but said great encouragement could be garnered from his teams second half exertions.
“It is extremely disappointing to bow out of the inaugural Westfield FFA Cup a game shy of the Final,” Moss said. “And, it’s even more disappointing that we gave ourselves a mountain to climb in the second half with a below par performance in the first half.”
"The second half performance is proof that the character, unity & culture of our dressing room is absolutely in tact so those questioning it are way off the mark."
“We turned a massive corner in the second half and I think we will gain a lot of confidence heading into Sunday and our busy schedule of Hyundai A-League matches that we have coming up.”
“The conditions tonight were rather stifling, so to not give in, fight, and push Adelaide in the second 45 was really encouraging,” he said.
Central Coast Mariners return to action on Sunday 16 November against Melbourne City at AAMI Park. Kick-off in the Hyundai A-League 2014/15 round 6 fixture is 5:00pm.
Adelaide United 3 (Cirio 40’, 88’, Mabil 45’)
Central Coast Mariners 2 (Simon 48’, Rose 90+3’)
Coopers Stadium, Adelaide
Referee: Chris Beath
Adelaide United: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (GK) (C), 2.Michael MARRONE, 3.Nigel BOOGAARD, 5.Osama MALIK, 7.Pablo SÁNCHEZ (22.Fabio FERREIRA 62’), 8.ISAÍAS, 9.Sergio CIRIO, 10.Marcelo CARRUSCA (32.Nathan KONSTANDOPOULOS 89’), 17.Awer MABIL, 18.Jimmy JEGGO (4.Dylan McGOWAN 62’), 21.Tarek ELRICH
Substitutes not used: 20.Paul IZZO (GK), 24.Bruce KAMAU
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil
Central Coast Mariners: 12.Liam REDDY (GK), 3.Joshua ROSE, 4.Richi VERNES, 5.Zac ANDERSON, 7.John HUTCHINSON (C), 8.Nick MONTGOMERY, 9.Mitchell DUKE, 13.Hayden MORTON, 14.Malick MANÉ (19.Matt SIMON 46’ (27.Isaka CERNAK 60’)), 26.KIM Seung-yong (17.Anthony CACERES 46’), 29.Matt SIM
Substitutes not used: 16.Liam ROSE, 34.Adam PEARCE (GK)
Yellow cards: Cernak, Montgomery, Anderson
Red cards: Nil