The Central Coast Mariners have come from behind to earn a gutsy 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory thanks to an immediate impact from substitutes Lachlan Wales & Blake Powell who combined for the equaliser.
Melbourne Victory 1 (Berisha 48’) Central Coast Mariners 1 (Powell 71’)
The run down
With 20 minutes to go and the heat taking its toll on both sides, Paul Okon went to his bench, adding 20-year-old Terrigal United FC junior Lachlan Wales and Blake Powell to the attack.
Less than a minute after Powell & Wales came on, Wout Brama hit a precision diagonal long ball to the feet of Wales on the left wing who charged into space. Wales expertly found fellow substitute, Blake Powell in the box who tapped home the equaliser.
The crucial point for the Mariners kicks off a busy schedule that will see them now travel home to prepare for the #F3Derby against the Newcastle Jets in Newcastle on Tuesday.
After a quiet opening, Melbourne Victory managed the first two chances of the match through Besart Berisha.
The first came in the 17th minute when Leroy George cut in from the left and took a shot. Ben Kennedy made the save but Berisha was there to jump on the spoils, the Albanian looked certain to tap home from point blank range but a lunging Antony Golec came from nowhere to get a foot in and deny Victory the opener.
10 minutes later, James Troisi released Berisha who let rip on a first-time strike that thundered off the crossbar.
In between the two Berisha chances, the Mariners created a promising moment of their own when Andrew Hoole tried to curl one in from just inside the area, the shot deflected off Victory’s Dino Djulbic and Lawrence Thomas was able to just clean up before an ensuing Kwabena Appiah could take advantage.
The Mariners most dangerous moments came on the left through the combination of Storm Roux in his new position at left back and Connor Pain who both linked up well with Hoole on a number of occasions.
As the second half drew to an end, the momentum tipped in favour of the Mariners who managed two chances in quick succession in the final moments of the half.
The first was started by some individual brilliance by Tom Hiariej in the midfield who skipped around Matias Sanchez and played a precision through ball to Asdrubal up front. The Spanish striker created space for himself before shooting and drawing Thomas into an impressive save. It stayed alive for the Mariners and a dangerous ball came in from the right, it was cleared just before Appiah could fire home which ended the half 0-0.
Berisha wasted no time in the second half and snatched the lead in the 49th minute with a solo effort on the edge of the box.
Victory’s goal looked to breathe life into the Mariners’ attack with the Yellow & Navy going agonisingly close in the 52nd minute. As Appiah does so well, he got in behind the back four and crossed almost perfectly to Asdrubal but Djulbic slid in to make a goal saving tackle.
The game changing moment was the addition of Powell and Wales who combined for the equaliser in the 71st minute but that wouldn’t deter the attack of either sides.
In the 94th minute, Melbourne Victory had a prime chance to take the lead. A ball fell to the feet of Jai Ingham in front of goal but his first time shot was off target.
In the end, both teams settled for a point in Geelong which has the Mariners sitting just four points outside the top six.
49’ BERISHA (1-0): Berisha gave his side the lead after charging towards the box and beating two Mariners players. He then shot across his body and goal with the left foot which slid perfectly into the bottom corner.
71’ POWELL (1-1): It all started with a trademark diagonal ball from Wout Brama in the midfield that found super-sub Lachie Wales - with his first touch – charged into the box and cleverly squared the ball to the on-rushing Blake Powell for a simple finish. What an introduction by the two subs.
Paolo in the press
“We probably rode our luck a little bit today,” Okon said. “At the death there, Victory had a great opportunity to win it. “We had to find some energy in the second half, we gave away a poor goal.
“We’re delighted for young Lachie Wales who is a local boy that has been working tremendously hard in training and in the Youth League. He gets an opportunity today and delivers a tap in for Blake Powell to tap in and give us a point.
“A fair result probably would have been a win for Victory but we’ve had a number of games this season where at the end of 90 minutes we felt like we should have had more so we take a point and move forward to the #F3Derby in three days time.
“The plan was always to bring them both on at the same time [Wales & Powell]. We needed that spark that they provided but that’s why you make subs, is exactly for that. Whenever we’ve done that this season our subs have played their part and that was no different today.
“Lachie is a great kid, he loves this club, he’s got a great work ethic, he’s been performing very well in the NYL. At training he’s been holding his own so we knew in this period he was going to get an opportunity. With Danny De Silva and Trent Buhagiar away with the Olyroos it means up top we don’t have the numbers. We knew Lachie would do a job: did we know he was going to create the assist to give us a point? We hoped. For him this is a special moment and I hope our supporters can see when these young boys are given an opportunity they deliver.
“We scored, we get a point, we’re now two games unbeaten and we now have a tough game in three games that we need to recover and be up for a big derby.
“You know you’re going to come here, you’re going to need a bit of luck. I’m a big believer in you make your own luck for yourself and I think we did that. At the back end of the first half we really threatened and were getting on top. The second half we started slow and gave away a sloppy goal but we found our energy and were forced to step things up. We did that and we earn that point away from home.
“In the opening of this season we’ve performed well against the renowned four bigs of the competition. We know we can beat any team but we also know that if we don’t put it together for 90 minutes we have less of a chance to win games. There’s a tough month of football ahead but we will embrace it for what it is and hope to perform and get as many points as we can,” Okon said.
Central Coast Mariners: 1.Ben KENNEDY(gk), 2.Storm ROUX (3.Josh ROSE 87’), 3.Jake McGING, 5.Antony GOLEC, 6.Tom HIARIEJ, 7.Andrew HOOLE, 9.ASDRUBAL (8.Blake POWELL 71’), 11. Connor PAIN, 13. Kwabena APPIAH (24.Lachlan WALES 71’), 15. Alan BARO, 23.Wout BRAMA
Substitutes not used: 20.Adam PEARCE (gk), 16.Liam ROSE
Yellow cards: Hoole 24’, Baro 30’, Wales 74’
Melbourne Victory FC: 20.Lawrence THOMAS (gk), 2.Jason GERIA, 3.Dino DJULBIC (6.Leigh BROXHAM 81’), 5.Mark MILLIGAN, 8.Besart BERISHA, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.James TROISI, 18.Matias SANCHEZ, 21.Carl VALERI (c) (Antonis 81’), 22.Stefan NIGRO, 41.Leroy GEORGE (23.Jai INGHAM 74’)
Substitutes not used: 1.Matt ACTON (Gk), 31.Christian THEOHAROUS,
Yellow cards: 30’ Valeri
Saturday, 6 January 2017
GMHBA Stadium, Geelong
Melbourne Victory vs. Central Coast Mariners