Barbarouses strike enough for Sky Blues to edge out brave Mariners
It was first against last as Central Coast Mariners travelled to face Sydney FC but the visitors showed no fear as they made the Sky Blues earn their 1-0 win at Nestrata Jubilee Stadium on Saturday night.
Sydney FC went ahead early but it was the Mariners who made all the running late in the game as they pushed and pushed for an equaliser which never came, but despite the result Alen Stajcic's side will take plenty of positives from what was an encouraging showing against the reigning Champions.
The Sky Blues looked set to feast on yet another lowly opponent when they scored through Kosta Barbarouses with only five minutes on the clock.
But the Mariners reacted well to going behind, keeping compact in defence while fashioning some chances of their own.
Former Sydney FC creator Danny De Silva tried to even the ledger instantly with a shot from distance minutes after the Barbarouses goal which called Andrew Redmayne into a strong save.
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Both sides exchanged blows as Kim Eun-Sun and Adam le Fondre missed headed attempts on goal, before Samuel Silvera provided Mariners striker Jair with a perfect opportunity to draw his side level which the Brazilian ultimately wasted.
The second half began in relatively subdued fashion as both sides continued to feel each other out.
Milos Ninkovic threatened to break the game open with a shot inside the box which travelled over the bar and ultimately led to the Serbian midfielder's substitution as he succumbed to a calf injury in his shooting action.
Facing a 1-0 deficit from early in the contest the Mariners refused to lay down as Jair and Dylan Ruiz-Diaz both had half chances to peg one back for the visitors.
The Mariners dominated proceedings late and almost found an 89th-minute equaliser through Giancarlo Gallifuoco who got down low to connect with a Ziggy Gordon cross with a diving header which demanding a reflex save from Redmayne, who rose to the challenge to save all three points for his side.
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Barbarouses gets it going early
It was a lightning start from Sydney FC in front of their home fans as they opened accounts inside five minutes through Barbarouses.
The Kiwi international turned the ball into an empty net after being found unmarked at the back post by Rhyan Grant’s cross.
Big save from Redmayne
The Mariners sought an instant reply as De Silva threatened with a bullet-like strike from 20 yards out.
However, the youngster was foiled by his former club courtesy of a sharp save from the flying Andrew Redmayne in goal.
Defenders on top
While the chances dried up, there was still plenty to like in the defensive showings of both teams as an arm wrestle ensued.
Gordon showed his tenacity with a crucial sliding block in the box on Barbarouses in the 22nd minute, before Grant combined pace and timing to slide in on Jair ten minutes later.
Jair nearly levels before the half
After weathering mountains of Sky Blues possession the Mariners spurned their best chance of the opening stanza in the 43rd minute.
A pinpoint cross from Silvera was met at the near post by Jair, but the Brazilian’s stooping header proved too awkward to turn on target.
Ninkovic feels the pinch after wayward shot on goal
Sydney FC's number 10 made his final contribution to the game with a shot on goal which sailed high over the bar.
Ninkovic slid in to meet a through ball from Alex Baumjohann but Gordon was on hand to pressure the shot as the Serbian blasted wide.
In the aftermath of the shot Ninkovic clutched at his calf and signalled to the bench that his night was over.
Gallifuoco goes closest to levelling the scores
The Mariners threw everything at the Sky Blues late in the contest and almost got reward for their effort when Gallifuoco arrived in the box to direct a diving header towards goal in the 89th minute of the game.
The midfielder's attempt was a good one and looked to be heading into the back of the net but Redmayne was up to the task of keeping it out, moving to his right to block the shot and deny the visitors a deserving equaliser.
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