Juric scores hat-trick from the spot as Reds end Mariners run
A hat-trick to Adelaide United striker Tomi Juric helped the Reds seal a 3-2 win over Central Coast Mariners in a frantic contest at Coopers Stadium on Friday night.
Juric scored three times from the spot as Adelaide came from behind twice and ultimately went ahead to seal a 3-2 win in the most dramatic of circumstances, cancelling out goals to Daniel De Silva and Alou Kuol which twice put the league-leaders in touching distance of three points.
The Reds started brightly before disaster struck in defence, when a weak Jordan Elsey back-pass intended for James Delianov invited Mariners creator Daniel De Silva to swoop ahead of the Adelaide 'keeper and send the ball dribbling over the goal-line.
Mariners midfielder Oli Bozanic struck the post with a well-hit strike from distance as the Mariners attempted to build on their lead. Adelaide looked to be lacking confidence and energy as they attempted to play the ball around a pressurising Mariners outfit, until a contentious penalty call hauled the hosts back into the contest.
Stefan Mauk earned his side the spot kick, getting ahead of Ruon Tongyik as the Mariners defender attempted a clearance in the box. An intense VAR review ensued but the decision stood, and Tomi Juric gladly stepped forward to convert the equaliser.
Alou Kuol's usual impact off the bench was felt in the second stanza, when the 19-year-old thumped a venomous strike past Delianov's near post under pressure from Elsey to give the Mariners a 2-1 lead.
But the Reds showed the grit and persistence not often seen in Carl Veart's side when falling behind throughout the opening stages of the 2020/21 campaign. Mauk earned a second penalty for his side after a tussle in the box with Joshua Nisbet which Juric converted to draw the sides level, which set up a chaotic ending to the show.
Adelaide's manic scramble for a winner produced a third penalty in their favour when the ball was seen by VAR to have hit Kye Rowles' hand after Pacifique Niyongabire's close-range strike. Juric collected the ball after a significant pause, planted it on the penalty spot and struck truly, sealing his hat-trick.
The full-time whistle blew after a late piece of heroism from Delianov denied the Mariners an equaliser. Rowles and referee Adam Fielding exchanged words after full-time which resulted in the young Mariners defender receiving a red card, as the remarkable battle at Coopers Stadium finally came to its conclusion.
The Mariners arrived with a full head of steam but the hosts got on top early, crafting early chances to Ben Halloran and Juric which were kept away from goal by committed displays of Mariners defending.
The visitors warned the Reds of their offensive intentions when Clisby played a perfect cross to Matt Simon who directed his header directly into Delianov's gloves, before a calamitous defensive gaffe put the Mariners ahead 15 minutes into play.
Clisby was involved again, playing De Silva in on goal before Jordan Elsey came across to snuff out the danger. But Elsey's back-pass lacked conviction, leaving the opportunity for De Silva to dart in and prod the ball past Delianov and over the line.
The Mariners probed for a second goal shortly after going ahead, creating two quick-fire chances to De Silva and Bozanic.
De Silva found the room to dispatch a shot on goal after Tongyik slid a pass through Noah Smith's legs and into the box, before George Timotheou got across to block. Two minutes later Bozanic received the ball outside the box and launched a vicious driven shot on goal, which cannoned off the post but failed to find the target.
The Reds looked bereft of confidence chasing the game, until Mauk earned a penalty for the hosts in a moment of controversy.
Tongyik was adjudged to have tripped the Reds midfielder with an attempted clearance in the box and a spot-kick was awarded; the penalty stood after an extended VAR investigation and Juric stepped forward to calmly slot the ball past Mark Birighitti and level the scores.
The Mariners rounded out the half on top once more as Jaden Casella and Marco Ureña received late chances to put the visitors back in the lead.
Casella flashed a shot past Delianov's left-hand upright from outside the box before Clisby put his precise crossing abilities on show once again, finding Ureña's head in the box the Costa Rican's weak header was collected comfortably be the Adelaide 'keeper.
The Reds came out displaying aggression early in the second half. The tension began to simmer after the first-half penalty decision and only increased after Simon's heavy collision with Javi López in the second stanza which animated the home fans at Coopers Stadium.
With a little over half an hour to play, Alen Stajcic invited his not-so-secret weapon Kuol off the bench and into the game.
His impact was typically emphatic. A strong header just minutes after coming on challenged Delianov in Adelaide's goal, before the teenage sensation put the Mariners back on top, outmuscling Elsey in the box to smash a ruthless strike off Delianov's near post which rattled the back of the net.
The visitors had their lead back, but their joy was to be fleeting. Mauk was involved once again as he drew a second penalty off the pressure from Joshua Nisbet in the box; the Mariners objected and Juric rejoiced as he buried his second spot-kick of the night past Birighitti to draw Adelaide level.
With 20 minutes to play the Reds sniffed a chance to snatch all three points. After Adelaide failed to put the ball in the net throughout a frantic goal-mouth scramble the Mariners surged down the other end, earning a foul from a rash challenge from Lopez on Kuol.
Play was paused as De Silva stood over the dead ball - another VAR check was in process. A handball from Kye Rowles was discovered in the midst of the scrap in Adelaide's offensive box.
Referee Adam Fielding ventured to the VAR screen and found a third penalty decision in Adelaide's favour; the ball which was placed for the free-kick down one end was picked up and placed on the spot for Juric down the other, who lashed home a third penalty to seal his hat-trick and all three points for the Reds.
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