Melbourne City compounded a horror second-half for Central Coast Mariners with three quickfire goals helping secure a come-from-behind 4-1 win at AAMI Park on Sunday.
The Mariners looked set to inflict a severe blow on City’s title ambitions when Mitch Austin scored a superb solo opener, but the hosts turned it around with three quick goals after the restart before Aaron Mooy capped the comeback with a free-kick deep in added time.
The away side’s misery was worsened with a serious leg injury sustained by fullback Storm Roux before Fabio Ferreira was dismissed late for a second yellow card.
0-1 Mitch Austin (34’) – Just moments after spurning a good chance, Mitch Austin made amends with an eye-catching run and strike. The strongly-built winger turned Paulo Retre on halfway following a City corner and proceeded to power his way into the penalty area, this time producing a composed finish over Thomas Sorensen.
1-1 Patrick Kisnorbo (48’) – As it so often does, the set-piece delivery of Aaron Mooy created a goal for Melbourne City. The Socceroos midfielder invited a teammate to meet his whipped free-kick and Kisnorbo obliged, firmly heading home his second of the season.
2-1 Aaron Mooy (66’) – Jacob Poscoliero felled Nick Fitzgerald in the penalty area following a fine double save by Paul Izzo. Play was halted as Storm Roux received treatment, but Mooy held his concentration to emphatically dispatch the penalty high into the top left corner.
3-1 Ben Garuccio (69’) – Harry Ascroft misread a bounce which allowed Fitzgerald to drive at goal. He and Bruno Fornaroli combined to tee up Ben Garuccio on the overlap for a neat finish inside the near post.
4-1 Aaron Mooy (90’+10) – In the 10th minute of a stoppage time extended by Roux’s injury, Mooy stepped up and gloriously stroked a free-kick past the flat-footed Izzo and into the bottom corner.
Jacob Poscoliero’s foul on Nick Fitzgerald not only undid a desperate moment of defending but also gifted Melbourne City the lead.
Paul Izzo had just produced an outstanding double save while Josh Rose cleared off the line, only for those efforts to unrewarded as Poscoliero left a foot in on Fitzgerald. Mooy’s unerring conversion compounded the error.
Paul Izzo made numerous fine saves throughout the contest but his best arrived in athletic style when scores were still level.
Nick Fitzgerald’s smart looping header from Aaron Mooy’s chip looked set to dip below the crossbar but Izzo – whose initial movement was forward – quickly backpedalled to tip the effort over at full stretch.
Thomas Sorensen had just finished berating his defence for falling asleep at a throw-in when Mitch Austin punished Paulo Retre for marking too tightly on halfway.
Austin – arguably the competition’s quickest player – managed to get goal-side of the City midfielder and steamed away for the opener. Another Sorensen serve for absent-minded defending was surely supported by John van’t Schip in his half-time team talk.
Conceding a penalty and falling behind were significant team blows to Central Coast, but neither will be felt as much as the serious leg injury sustained by Storm Roux.
Roux was playing his part in a defensive scramble when he dived for an attempted block. His right leg caught awkwardly on the turf the All Whites defender had to be taken from the pitch on a stretcher.
THE FINAL WORD
Yet another Hyundai A-League upset seemed to be on track as the competition’s bottom side entered the sheds ahead 1-0.
However, City responded in just the fashion of a title contender as a determined 20 minutes completely re-shaped the course of events.
John van’t Schip’s side now moves three points clear of fourth-placed rivals Melbourne Victory, while a punishing second 45 minutes keeps Central Coast Mariners glued to the foot of the ladder.