A dramatic 84th minute Josh Rose winner and a spot kick follow up from Nick Fitzgerald was enough to overcome a first half goal from Adelaide United's Awer Mabil to seal a last gasp 2-1 win for Phil Moss and the Central Coast Mariners.
With just over five minutes remaining and both sides on level terms it was an aerial cross with pin point precision from Mitchell Duke that landed in the lap of Rose and made all the difference. Rose controlled the cross just inside the area and struck home with style to send the home side into the sheds with a crucial three points.
Head Coach Phil Moss praised his men for coming home strong after an impressive week on the training park.
“Today was about building some pride back into the shirt, we weren’t happy to cop five goals at home and lose to Sydney and we’ve worked hard on the mentality of the players between then and now. It wasn’t pretty but we found a way to win the game,” Moss said.
It was a result for the yellow and navy that kicks off a jam packed schedule including three games over the next 11 days at Gosford’s idyllic bayside arena.
The opening 20 minutes played out with little threat to either end, however it was Fitzgerald who caused the Adelaide defence some grief on the edge of the box early.
The crowd had their first opportunity to cheer in the 22nd minute after John Hutchinson broke the line and chipped to Matt Simon inside the box. Simon controlled and played the ball back to Duke whose shot was blocked by a lunging Adelaide defender.
In the 25th minute Fitzgerald was again the danger man and found himself with enough space to send a curling shot towards the top corner. His strike from 25 yards out forced Eugene Galekovic to parry Fitzgerald's effort over the crossbar.
Four minutes later it was Mabil’s chance to try his luck from distance after some impressive build up play on the flank from Tarek Elrich, Mabil’s strike drew Liam Reddy into a diving save but the Mariners were not out of danger just yet.
Seconds later Mabil was on the end of a Pablo Sanchez cross that produced a nice turn to set himself up for a second attempt on goal. Mabil’s shot on goal took an unfortunate deflection off Jacob Poscoliero resulting in a 1-0 lead to the away side in the 29th minute.
The Mariners had a prime opportunity to level the wagers before the break through a Fitzgerald and Duke combo that was brought to a halt by the off side flag.
Adelaide came out trumps in the first half and went into the sheds a goal up at half time despite a well drilled Central Coast defence.
“The backline did well today, the goal we conceded was disappointing but our defensive structure was sound and tactically I was happy with how we went,” Moss said.
The second stanza began at an even pace between the two teams with neither side producing a serious chance on goal in the opening stages.
In the 65th minute the first chance of the half broke after an impressive through ball from the outside of Duke’s right boot.
The skewed through ball skidded perfectly to the feet of Fitzgerald on the left wing who sent the ball flying back into the area. The cross deflected off Simon’s head and made its way back to Duke who headed just wide of the upright.
At 17 years of age, both Anthony Kalik and Liam Rose stepped onto the hallowed turf of Central Coast Stadium to make their Hyundai A-League debuts, both featured in the middle of the park and replaced Anthony Caceres and Nick Montgomery halfway through the second half.
Moss praised the youngsters in their first experience in the Hyundai A-League.
“Young Liam Rose and Anthony Kalik in their debuts made a big difference to us at just the right time in the game and as we’ve always said at this club, we give kids a chance and that’s their first taste of A-League and I’m sure they’ll grow from it,” Moss said.
With 10 minutes remaining the home side started to turn it on, asking constant questions of the Adelaide defence.
In a sudden turn of events Fitzgerald hit a bobbling shot from open play that found the hand of Reds' defender Michael Marrone, resulting in a penalty to the yellow and navy. Fitzgerald’s shot from the spot was thwarted by an outstretched Galekovic but young Fitzy was johnny-on-the-spot with his follow up and placed his second chance between the keeper’s legs to put his side on level terms.
From here it was all Central Coast who used the momentum of Fitzgerald’s goal to remain in Adelaide’s end of the pitch for the remainder of the match. In the 84th minute the game was put to bed with a curling Duke cross that was belted home by Josh Rose seeing the home side’s second goal in just over five minutes.
“Today was a big test for us, for me they [Adelaide] are the best footballing team in the competition, they put seven goals past Newcastle last week and when they put one past us it could have gone either way but I thought the mentality of the players was great to ride out the storm and get to half time. In the second half we were much better and forced them into mistakes and we used the ball much better,” Moss said.
“We were able to get ourselves back into the game and that was key, Fitzy put the rebound in off his penalty which was probably the little bit of luck we needed,” Moss said.
Full focus now shifts to a short turnaround for the Mariners who will take on Brisbane Roar at home next Friday night, a fixture that Moss would like to carry momentum into.
“Today was a crucial win for many reasons but we’ve got to build on that and pull some wins together. We’ve got another chance next week against Brisbane at home and we need to come out breathing fire again and get the result there,” Moss said.
Central Coast Mariners: 2 (11. Nick Fitzgerald 79’ & 3. Joshua ROSE 84’)
Adelaide: 1 (17. A MABIL 29’)
Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Referee: Alan Milliner
Central Coast Mariners: 2. Storm ROUX, 3. Josh ROSE, 4. Jacob POSCOLIERO, 7. John HUTCHINSON (c), 8. Nick MONTGOMERY (16. Liam ROSE 69’), 9. Mitchell DUKE, 10. Anthony CACERES (20. Anthony KALIK 60’), 11. Nick FITZGERALD (14.Travis MAJOR 84’), 12. Liam REDDY (gk), 19. Matt SIMON, 25. Eddy BOSNAR
Substitutes not used: 1.Matthew NASH (gk), 15.Matt SIM,
Yellow cards: Matt Simon 45’
Adelaide United: 1. Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk), 2. Michael MARRONE., 5. Osama MALIK, 7. Pablo SANCHEZ, 8. ISAIAS, 9. Sergio CIRIO, 11. Bruce DJITE (19. Miguel PALANCA FERNANDEZ 61’), 16. Craig GOODWIN, 17. Awer MABIL (24. Bruce KAMAU 72’), 18. James JEGGO, 21. Tarek ELRICH
Substitutes not used: 12. Mark OCHIENG, 20. Paul Izzo (gk), 32. Nathan KONSTANDOPOULOS