Mariners back on top after late drama - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Mariners back on top after late drama

By Liam Fitzgibbon 04/11/2007 08:26:24 PM Comments (0)

Central Coast reclaimed top spot on the A-League ladder with a thrilling come-from-behind 2-1 win over a nine-man Melbourne at Bluetongue Stadium.

A stunning 88th-minute strike from midfielder Tom Pondeljak completed the comeback after Sasho Petrovski had scored eight minutes earlier to cancel out Costa Rican midfielder Carlos Hernandez' opener in the 77th minute.

The Victory were reduced to 10 men for most of the match after defender Joseph Keenan was shown a straight red card for a sliding challenge on Andrew Clark in the 21st minute.

They lost another player in the 89th minute when defender Rodrigo Vargas was sent off for hitting Petrovski in the stomach, while Petrovski was also given his marching orders after receiving his second yellow card of the game for pulling Vargas' shirt.

Despite their disadvantage in numbers the Victory, led by busy strikers Archie Thompson and Daniel Allsopp, were a constant threat to the Mariners and created plenty of scoring chances.

Walking away with no points left Victory coach Ernie Merrick shattered and he labelled the loss the toughest to take in his two-and-a-half seasons as coach of the reigning premiers.

"It's a pretty cruel game," Merrick said.

"I'm speechless to be honest ... they played very well and it's very hard to take.

"We've got players getting sent off that are good blokes, highly disciplined and certainly not violent players.

"It just looks like we're an undisciplined team and we're far from it."

The win puts the Mariners three points clear at the top of the table, ahead of last week's leaders Adelaide, and Newcastle.

"I'm very happy with the three points, very happy to be on top of the table but very relieved after the way we played," Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna said.

"When they had 11 players on the park we should have been up two or three nil and then they went to ten men, we struggled again.

"In the second half we struggled as well, we were just too pedestrian."

The Mariners were on the back foot when Allsopp set up Hernandez' 77th-minute goal.

The striker produced a dazzling run from near halfway before a simple low cross found Hernandez unmarked for a tap in.

The 11,000 home fans didn't have to wait long for an equaliser however, and they were delighted that new signing, Socceroos striker John Aloisi, helped set it up in his first match at home.

Aloisi fired a Matt Simon cross towards goal, forcing a good save from Theoklitos but Petrovski was there to clean up the scraps and fire the ball home.

The Mariners kept pressing for the winner and were rewarded in the 88th minute with Pondeljak's stunner.

Midfielder John Hutchinson laid off a ball for Pondeljak, who came storming on to it and curled a lovely shot into the left side of Theoklitos' net.

"Credit to Tom for finishing that ... easily in the last few minutes he could have skewed it elsewhere as a lot of other shots went, but it was a fantastic finish," McKinna said.

The Victory drop to sixth place following the loss, and leave Merrick with a stack of selection headaches ahead of Saturday's clash against in-form Sydney FC.

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