Talking Points: Can the Mariners kick on after 2,464 day drought-breaker?
Central Coast Mariners boss Alen Stajcic says Matt Simon's stoppage-time heroics against Melbourne Victory are 'the things that dreams are made of'.
Mariners stalwart Simon kept his composure twice in injury time to crown an incredible comeback from the Mariners, who trailed Victory twice in Gosford but turned it around in dramatic circumstances to post a 3-2 win, their first over the four-time Champions in 2,464 days.
The Mariners’ last triumph was a 1-0 Semi-Final win in April 2013, a game won by Daniel McBreen and featuring Socceroos Mathew Ryan and Trent Sainsbury as well as boss Graham Arnold.
Seven days later, Arnold’s men beat Western Sydney Wanderers and won their maiden Hyundai A-League Championship.
It would be ambitious to suggest Stajcic’s side are in a position to match that feat following Sunday’s win. However, the 46-year-old believes that the Mariners demonstrated they are top-six material by outclassing their opponents.
“Just in terms of quality of football, I think we’ve shown we’re capable of being in that finals series but showing it and proving it and getting the results are a different story,” he said.
Last-minute winners can often inject an immense amount of confidence and belief into a team and Simon’s 100th minute spot-kick heroics could do wonders for the Mariners.
That penalty saw Simon, who had earlier received his 50th booking in the competition, become the first Mariners player to record half a century of goals for the club, and is also one of the latest goals in Australian national league history.
“We’ve got a big couple of games coming up, we have Western United, Brisbane and Wanderers so we’re looking forward to a good run here and put some back to back wins together which this club hasn’t done in a long time,” Stajcic said.
Western United FC v Central Coast Mariners
Sunday, 19 January 2020
Kick off: 4pm AEDT
Ikonomidis on a mission for Perth
In an ominous sign for defenders around the Hyundai A-League, it appears Chris Ikonomidis is nearing his return to peak form and willing to give Tony Popovic an almighty headache.
Ikonomidis scored, saw Paul Izzo deny two more shots and would have tallied an assist had Bruno Fornaroli added a simple finish in the space of 30 devastating minutes in Perth Glory's 3-0 win over Adelaide on Saturday night.
The young Socceroo has not quite hit the outstanding heights of his 2018/19 campaign so far but after losing his starting berth to Joel Chianese over the last few weeks, Ikonomidis seems determined to win back his position.
It certainly provides the reigning Premiers with a healthy dose of competition at a time where Popovic's side are motoring through the gears.
Perth's win over Adelaide tied a club record fifth win in a row and after an underwhelming start both Ikonomidis and the Glory could be set to wreak havoc in the second half of the campaign.
“It would discredit the players here if I said we weren’t at a very good level but I still feel we are building,” Popovic said.
Adelaide, meanwhile, are in real trouble. Gertjan Verbeek's side have lost four matches on the bounce and next Friday's contest against Melbourne Victory is shaping as season-defining for both clubs.
Davila credits Talay for Phoenix rebirth
Ulises Davila has praised Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay for giving him the confidence to shine in the Hyundai A-League.
Davila registered his ninth goal of the season in Saturday's 2-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers and has been an incredible force throughout Wellington's nine-match unbeaten streak.
Since arriving in New Zealand, the Mexican star has delivered on all the promise that saw him light up the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2011 and sign for Premier League outfit Chelsea.
“From the beginning Ufuk gave me all the confidence, and that's the most important thing,” Davila told stuff.nz.
“I tried to give back all of his confidence in good football.”
Davila added that Wellington, now fourth on the ladder, have serious designs on ending their silverware drought this season.
“I want us to be champions. The people at the start thought we'd be the last team of the league but I could tell from the beginning in pre-season that we would be in the top-six and we will try to be champions.”
It was a similar story of frustration for Markus Babbel's Wanderers side. Although the Red and Black are only three points away from fifth-placed Western United, performances have simply not been to the required standard, something Mitch Duke made plain after the match.
“The bottom line is it is not acceptable,” said the Wanderers captain.
“At the moment we're finding ways to lose.
“We could play two hours more and we can’t score – this is a problem,” added Babbel.
Sydney uninspiring but march on regardless
It is perhaps a measure of Sydney FC's quality that, after arguably one of the more passive performances of their campaign, the Sky Blues still managed to extend their lead at the Hyundai A-League summit.
Steve Corica's side were underwhelming in their 2-1 win over Newcastle Jets, who outshot the reigning Champions 14-4 and piled on the second-half pressure but were unable to make a resurgent performance count in the wake of Ernie Merrick's departure.
Ultimately, it was the goals of Adam Le Fondre and Kosta Barbarouses, taking advantage of lapses in the Jets defence, that proved pivotal for the Sky Blues. And, after Melbourne City's 2-2 draw against Brisbane Roar on Saturday, Sydney's lead of the competition rises to 13 points.
There is still room for improvement for Sydney though, despite their supremacy in 2019/20. Friday's win came despite the match being the third time in their last five that the Sky Blues have been held scoreless in the second half.
“Sometimes you have to see out the game. We don’t have to score five goals or three goals when we are in front. They have to come to us,” Corica said.
Inman leaves Roar wanting more
Brisbane Roar continued their mini-revival by claiming a point in a high-octane 2-2 draw against Melbourne City on Saturday but it was a result that left fans with a sense of missed opportunity.
Brad Inman notched a first half double for Robbie Fowler's team either side of Craig Noone's strike, only for Nathaniel Atkinson to equalise for City with a second-half screamer.
Following a draw with Newcastle and win against Western Sydney Wanderers, the point with high-flying City is another mark of progress for Brisbane, who sit ninth but are in striking distance of sixth-placed Melbourne Victory.
However, despite the positive signs on display – Inman's third and fourth goals in three matches being among them – Fowler was left feeling a little deflated after Inman missed a golden chance to net a hat-trick and snatch all three points.
“We were probably fortunate if we had won the game anyway because it wasn’t our best performance, but it is a point,” Fowler said.
“I’m happy with a point of course, it is better than no points. I want to win every game and we go into every game looking to win it.
“But for whatever reason, and I don’t know what happened today, I think we were a little bit slow and we were a little bit jaded. But we will look at that."