Mariners fall after being pummelled 5-2 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Mariners fall after being pummelled 5-2

By Philip Henderson 31/12/2007 08:59:26 PM Comments (0)

Central Coast's minor premiership stocks plummeted as Melbourne kept alive their faint finals hopes with an emphatic 5-2 victory at Bluetongue Stadium on Monday night.

Frontrunners for all but one of the opening 17 rounds of the A-League, the depleted Mariners will start the new year chasing the Queensland Roar after conceding top spot on goal difference following their worst loss of the season.

They have now allowed a staggering 10 goals in two games following their epic 5-4 defeat against Sydney FC last week, and with Sydney now just three points behind in third place, risk dropping out of the top two if coach Lawrie McKinna can't find a way to plug the massive leak in the Mariners' defence.

For Melbourne, the victory snapped an eight-game win-less streak, leaving the defending champions five points adrift of fourth-placed Newcastle and with an outside chance of making the semis with three rounds to play.

Before Monday night, the Victory had not scored more than two goals in any of their 17 games this season.

Despite limited opportunities, they managed to pile on four in the just the opening 45 minutes to leave the record crowd of 18,686 at Bluetongue in a state of shock.

Adrian Caceres, Daniel Allsopp, Archie Thompson and Kevin Muscat (penalty) all scored, with Mile Jedinak's superb 20-metre strike providing the only real joy for the home side before the break.

Allsopp's second in the 61st made it 5-1, before John Aloisi pulled one back in the 63rd.

Amazingly with a 5-2 scoreline against them, the Mariners could well claim to have had the more chances on Monday night.

But Melbourne did wonderfully well to take their opportunities, and were helped by some woeful Mariners defence.

Damien Brown, Alex Wilkinson and Tony Vidmar were the three main offenders in the first half with Brown gifting Caceres' the opener with an awful back-header, Wilkinson twice being beaten to the ball in the box for goals, and Vidmar giving away the penalty after bringing down Thompson.

Central Coast were without as many as five players from their regular squad through injury or suspension - including goalkeeper Danny Vukovic (suspended) and key midfielder John Hutchinson (knee injury) - but their player woes are unlikely to ease in the coming weeks.

They will get both Vukovic and Adam Kwasnik back from suspension for Sunday's trip to Perth, but their return will be offset by the loss of Tony Vidmar and Andrew Clark after both centrebacks received their fourth yellow cards of the season on Monday night.

McKinna summed up the Mariners performance as "poor", but remained confident his team could rebound to claim the league title.

"The boys are devastated," the Central Coast coach said.

"Tonight we probably weren't ruthless enough, especially in front of goal. Melbourne were ruthless in front of goal and all over the park.

"But we're still equal top the of the league. We win the next three games and we win the league.

"As we've said to the boys in there, we need to be positive, we can't feel sorry for ourselves.

"We've been leading the premiership all year and we want to win it, we don't want to come second or top four, we want to qualify for Asia (the Asian Champions League) and that's been our goal from the start of the season, and we still believe we can win it, we just need to regroup."

Victory boss Ernie Merrick praised Thompson for his performance after the Socceroos striker passed a late fitness test on a back-related injury.

Merrick, though, refused to talk up his side's finals hopes.

"It's great to see it all come together and to score five goals, but it's all a bit too late, I don't think we'll make the finals," said Merrick, who's side faces the Roar in Brisbane next round.

"I think it is important for us to make things difficult for teams to get in the finals now and try to build up some momentum leading up to the Asian Champions League.

"We need to back up that performance tonight, but I think it's all a bit too late for the final series."

As well as setting a new record for an A-League crowd in Gosford, Monday night's attendance also pushed the overall competition mark past one million for the season.

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