AIS lifts a gear

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and Central Coast Mariners have fought out a gritty 0-0 draw in their round 11 National Youth League clash at the AIS Athletics Track on Saturday.

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and Central Coast Mariners have fought out a gritty 0-0 draw in their round 11 National Youth League clash at the AIS Athletics Track on Saturday.

In what could have been a David versus Goliath match due to the recent dominance of the Central Coast side, the fixture saw the AIS go in with a strengthened team due to the return of various players from national duty in Indonesia.

And the reinforcements showed their class, with the team able to end their run of conceding four goals in each of their last three games.

Both teams were unable to cash in on some prime goal scoring opportunities in the opening minutes, including a surge down the middle from Central Coast's Mitchell Mallia, which was quickly taken care of by AIS keeper Lawrence Thomas who came in low and denied the Mariners the chance to push their way into the box and take first points.

Despite going into the match as favourites, Central Coast did not come out all guns blazing, with possession remaining fairly even into the 15th minute.

Kamal Ibrahim was quick down the wing for the AIS making sure any loose balls at the Mariners goal end were not left lingering.

Scores remained nil apiece midway through the first half but the determination for points was evident, with both sides itching for the early advantage.

Some quick passing in the midfield by the Central Coast kept the AIS on edge while Mariners strong defence contained any threat.

The AIS side had a real chance to strike in the 29th minute but the Central Coast defence and height advantage in goal left the scoreboard empty.

A goal from the Mariners in the 33rd minute looked almost certain but after a hassle-free run down the sideline from Panagiotis Nika, the angle of his cross came directly in contact with an AIS boot and trickled off over the backline.

Some punchy attempts from the AIS in the later stages of the first half were merely child's play to the Mariners' fast moving keeper Nikodin Matic. Despite his quick reflexes, the AIS were dominant at the end of the first half, keeping play predominately in their goal end.

A free kick for the Mariners in the 46th minute provided the side with a final glimmer of a goal before the first half of the match was through, but the strike sailed well over the cross bar and scores remained deadlocked at the break.

Energy was high in the opening minutes of the second half, the AIS creating an early attempt at goal from a tricky angle that sent Mariners keeper Matic diving off to the side, but his energy could have been saved with the ball travelling well beyond the net.

The AIS was playing some very persistent football, progressively steering the ball down to the goal end a number of times. The side came close to a goal in the 64th minute but an offside call on Mustafa Amini quickly brought the opportunity to an end. With 20 minutes left on the clock, the pressure to score continued to build and it was still the AIS which seemed to have most of the spark, creating real possibilities in goal and continually denying the Central Coast a chance up the other end thanks to the unrelenting AIS keeper, Lawrence Thomas.

The Mariners were quick to answer back with some strong play in the final ten minutes resulting in what could have been a series of match winning goals if only their aim was more accurate.

But their inability to convert saw the scores deadlocked at full time and both teams walked away from the match with a point each.

AIS 0 Central Coast 0