Matt Simon has come back to haunt his old club, scoring two late goals as Sydney FC overcame a 10-man Mariners 3-1 in a pulsating game at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday.
In a controversial and at times feisty clash, Simon came off the bench and drove a knife through the heart of his former employers, scoring twice in the last eight minutes after it looked like it was heading for a draw.
Earlier, the Sky Blues took a lead through Shane Smeltz in the first half but it lasted just a minute before Roy O’Donovan equalised for the home side.
The game then swung three minutes before the break as Nick Fitzgerald was shown a second yellow card and leaving the Mariners with 10-men for the second half.
And Sydney made the numerical advantage count to remain the only unbeaten side in the league to stay at the top of the ladder for another week.
0-1 Smeltz (34’) - Filip Holosko received the ball from a throw in inside the Mariners box and produced a clever back-heel into the path of Alex Brosque, with the Sydney skipper squaring to an unmarked Smeltz to sweep it home.
1-1 O’Donovan (35’) – Fabio Ferreira carved the Sky Blues apart down the right wing, surging past three players and driving into the box before passing to O’Donovan for a simple tap in.
1-2 Simon (82’) – Holosko was again involved, bursting forward from halfway as the Sky Blues had a two-on-one advantage. The Slovakian unselfishly passed to Simon, who cut inside one defender before blasting into the top corner of the net.
1-3 Simon (88’) – Substitute Mickael Tavares cut a swathe through the Mariners defence down the right flank before crossing to Simon, who planted his header in the corner past a despairing Paul Izzo.
Seven minutes before the break, O’Donovan sprung the Sydney FC offside trap and only had Vedran Janjetovic to beat as he bore down on goal. The Irishman tried to take the ball around the Sky Blues ‘keeper, only to be taken down in the process by the Sky Blues ‘keeper and going to ground. But referee Adam Fielding decided there was no foul, denying the home side a penalty – and likely 2-1 lead - and sparing Janjetovic what would have been a certain red card as a result.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Sydney’s incredible winning run away from home has now extended to a record 10 matches – and 17 unbeaten overall.
The Mariners have now conceded two or more goals in eight of their last nine matches, while it’s their first defeat in front of their home fans in five matches.Matt Simon has come back to haunt his old club, scoring two late goals as Sydney FC overcame a 10-man Mariners 3-1 in a pulsating game at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday.
Ferreira loves playing against the Sky Blues and had scored six times in six matches against them prior to this. And the Portuguese winger tormented them again, setting up the Mariners’ first-half equaliser with an exceptional piece of play. Ferreira showed all his pace, power and close control, leaving three defenders in his path and he blasted down the right wing and crossed for O’Donovan to score.
Mariners attacker Nick Fitzgerald was having an excellent game but ruined it with a brain explosion three minutes before half-time. Just two minutes after picking up his first yellow card for diving, Fitzgerald recklessly clattered into Sydney’s Milos Dimitrijevic and copping a second yellow. The send-off left his team playing the entire second half at a numerical disadvantage.
As a result of that heavy challenge from Fitzgerald which led to his dismissal, Dimitrijevic battled on until half-time but could play no further part in the match, suffering some ill-effects from the collision as well as a slight groin strain.
THE FINAL WORD
Will the Mariners look to change their all-out attacking philosophy in coming weeks as the defeat to Sydney was their third on the trot. Tony Walmsley’s side next welcome Wellington to Gosford in their next match on Sunday week.
The Sky Blues continue to march on as the competition’s only unbeaten side, making it three wins on the bounce, all against fellow NSW opposition. It will be another tough challenge in their next outing, hosting Brisbane Roar at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.