Hutchinson equaliser sends Mariners top - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hutchinson equaliser sends Mariners top

By Chris Pike 07/01/2008 06:02:08 AM Comments (0)

The Central Coast Mariners were unimpressive but again sit alone on top of the A-League after a 1-1 draw with Perth Glory at Members Equity Stadium.

It is the Mariners first points since mid-December and takes them to 31 for the season, one ahead of Queensland and Sydney.

In his 50th A-League match, John Hutchison scored his third goal of the season just before half-time to give the Mariners the advantage, before substitute Nikita Rukavytsya earned bottom-club Glory a point with his 69th minute equaliser.

Despite 3000 less fans turning up than last week's season-high, the Perth fans were treated to an improved performance and the long-awaited return of Stan Lazaridis and Jason Petkovic.

Perth looked lacklustre and lacking punch up front until Rukavytsya came on for Billy Celeski.

He created the Glory's first realistic chance at goal with a great run and shot that hit the post, before levelling the game at 1-1 at the 69-minute mark.

Petkovic returned to the goals for the first time since breaking his leg in October 2006 and did a solid job, with anyone unlikely to have saved Hutchinson's shot.

Lazaridis played the full 90 minutes after eventually making his way back into the side after his drug suspension was up in late November.

He showed enough to suggest he can continue for another season.

With Tony Vidmar and Andrew Clark out suspended, Central Coast's new recruit Alvin Ceccoli started after gaining a clearance from the Japanese Football Association.

Ceccoli had a tough introduction at the back checking Lazaridis and Leo Bertos, but performed well.

Late in the first half, the Mariners had a three-on-one advantage streaming forward to have the first real scoring chance, but Sasho Petrovski's shot on goal went well over the crossbar.

Only minutes later, Central Coast got the opening goal. Mile Jedinak put in a long ball, John Aloisi headed it on and Hutchinson was there to finish.

After Rukavytsya's great sprint that unluckily missed 65 minutes in, he got on the end of a good ball from Leo Bertos just four minutes later to dribble it past Mariners keeper Danny Vukovic, who returned from suspension.

Neither side could break the deadlock in the final half hour, despite Perth getting close on several occasions, to keep the Mariners on top and the Glory at the foot of the table.

Central Coast coach Lawrie McKinna was happy with the draw that sends his side back to the top of the table and is confident of finishing the season with two home wins.

"We're back on top and it's in our hands again and we don't have to rely on Sydney or Queensland slipping up," he said.

"Credit to Perth in the second half, they bombed forward and caused us some problems, but we defended desperately and I'm happy to get the draw.

"We've been up there all year and we honestly believe that we deserve to win the minor premiership.

"I know it's a big achievement to win the grand final, but for me it's a big thing to be top on the end and it also qualifies you for Asia."

Glory coach David Mitchell felt his side was unlucky not to win but was impressed with Rukavytsya and James Robinson, who came on as second half substitutions and the return of Lazaridis and Petkovic.

"I get offended when people say there is nothing to play for, there is always something to play for. I was not happy with the way we performed in the first half and let that be known at half-time," he said.

"I knew with the way we lined up we could have problems and I always had intentions of changing it up in the second, I did, and the last 25 minutes were fantastic. We ended up being a little unlucky not to win."

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