Western Sydney Wanderers and Central Coast Mariners played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Industree Group Stadium on Saturday night.
On a night featuring multiple lead changes, a draw was probably a fair result after both sides enjoyed dominant stretches throughout the 90 minutes.
After a Mariners mishap at the back, Oliver Bozanic had a big opportunity to give his side an early lead, but the midfielder was denied by a great reflex save from Danny Vukovic.
Bozanic then went close again, nipping in at the near post to meet Brandon Borrello’s cross but steering his effort wide.
The visitors were making most of the early running as the home side struggled to maintain possession. Bozanic had made a very bright start, getting himself involved in everything good Western Sydney were doing.
Marco Tulio took aim from long range, but his at-best ambitious effort sailed high over Lawrence Thomas’s goal. The Brazilian then found himself in space in the area but couldn’t convert, his strike glancing off the post and rolling harmlessly wide.
It was Borello’s turn next to hit one from outside the area but the speculative effort didn’t trouble Vukovic.
The flag stayed down as Bozanic got in behind the Mariners defence and the Wanderers were a goal-line clearance away from hitting the lead, however it would all be for naught as Shaun Evans belatedly called the play offside.
It was still all Western Sydney as the clock ticked past 25 minutes, with Tulio’s chance the home side’s only real sight of goal.
But completely against the run of play, Central Coast got themselves ahead through Samuel Silvera. Finding some space outside the box, Silvera unleashed a powerful strike and beat Thomas, who was perhaps unsighted.
Before long, however, Western Sydney levelled the game. With an audacious piece of skill, Yeni Ngbakoto got the Wanderers right back into the contest.
It would remain 1-1 at the break. On balance of play, Marko Rudan’s side were probably feeling unlucky to not be ahead, but Central Coast did manage to put together good pockets in the opening half.
It was all set up for a compelling conclusion under the lights at Industree Group Stadium.
The second half started in much the same vein as the first, with Western Sydney winning the midfield battle.
The Wanderers finally went ahead for the first time on the night, this time through Brandon Borrello, whose powerful strike from just inside the area beat Danny Vukovic.
Having missed out on a spot in the starting 11 after missing last week’s trip to New Zealand, it was then time for Jason Cummings to enter the fray.
The move paid dividends – after a goal-mouth scramble, it was Cummings who got the final touch as the ball nestled into the net and just like that, the hosts were back on level terms.
Try as they might, neither side could find the quality needed for a winning goal and it ended in a stalemate at Industree Group Stadium after an entertaining 90 minutes of football.
Central Coast Mariners 2 (Silvera 30′, Cummings 73′)
Western Sydney Wanderers 2 (Ngbakoto 35′, Borrello 60′)
Mariners fail to make statement
In a season where only reigning premiers Melbourne City have put distance between themselves and the chasing pack, the Mariners are the only other club who have looked to be joining Rado Vidosic’s side in the top tier of A-League teams.
Presented with chances to down the surging Wellington Phoenix and fellow top-four outfit Western Sydney, Central Coast have failed to stamp their authority, collecting just one point from the two fixtures when attaining all six was very plausible.
Of course, we can’t forget that the yellow and navy’s most complete performance came against the same opponents back in November. That night in Parramatta, Central Coast were brilliant, playing Wanderers off the park and looking like world-beaters.
There’s still time for Nick Montgomery’s side to surge back into the top two but at the present time they’re not looking like the side they can be.
Moronic travelling RBB try their best to ruin the spectacle
Just a month on from the abhorrent scenes in the Melbourne Derby, crowd trouble has reared its ugly head once again in the A-League.
Copping a goal against the run of play isn’t fun for any supporter, but most fans are able to accept the situation without launching projectiles onto the field.
Unfortunately, after Samuel Silvera opened the scoring this evening the travelling Western Sydney fans couldn’t show that restraint, pelting the celebrating Mariners players with bottles.
And it would get worse.
Seeing their side level the game just minutes later through Yeni Ngbakoto was too much excitement for some in the away end to handle, with scores of fans ripping up the tarp separating the two sets of supporters and running towards Mariners fans, ostensibly with sinister motives in mind. Luckily security managed to intervene before things went further south, but this just does not need to happen.
These so-called fans need to take a long, hard look at themselves if they think intimidating docile families on the sideline has any place in the game.
Rudan nabs quality import, but was he even needed?
While Morgan Schneiderlin doesn’t boast the same name recognition of a Nani or Alessandro Del Piero, make no mistake – he is a quality signing for Western Sydney. But for a side that’s already reasonably deep in the centre of midfield, it does seem a bit of a strange move by Marko Rudan.
Perhaps the manager also has his sights set on a forward. Putting the ball in the back of the net, of course, has been Wanderers’ Achilles heel in 2022-23, with only 14 goals scored in 13 games before this evening’s clash. In fact, only Brisbane (10) and the deplorable Melbourne Victory (12) have scored fewer.
Relying on your resolute defence and playing for a 1-0 win isn’t a winning strategy against sides like Central Coast and Melbourne City, so Rudan will need to find goals from somewhere if he wants to give the championship a real shake this season.
Image Credit: Ashley Feder/Getty Images