Sydney FC have heaped more misery on Central Coast and kick-started their own season with a 4-1 win at Allianz Stadium on Boxing Day.
Most of the drama came in a dramatic first half which included four goals – three two the home side including two penalties - and a red card to Mariners gloveman Paul Izzo for two bookable offences.
Sydney skipper Alex Brosque scored twice – before being forced off injured – with Mickael Tavares adding another for the home side before Harry Ascroft pulled one back for the visitors.
A late Jake McGing own goal ended the rout as the Sky Blues ensured they will end the round in the top four while the Mariners are last without a win since the opening weekend of the season.
1-0 Brosque (12’) – Milos Ninkovic and Andrew Hoole were involved in some brilliant combination play, with the latter’s effort fumbled by Paul Izzo, allowing Brosque to tap into an empty net.
2-0 Brosque (24’) – Mariners defender Jake McGing was adjudged to have brought down Ninkovic in the box, with the home side winning a penalty which Brosque duly dispatched.
3-0 Tavares (30’) – Izzo was at fault this time, hauling down George Blackwood in the box for another spot kick. This time Tavares stepped up and made no mistake.
3-1 Ascroft (38’) – A superb cross from Matt Sim saw Ascroft ghost in between some static Sydney defence to plant his header past Vedran Janjetovic for his first A-League goal.
4-1 McGing og (84’) – Hoole released the energetic Rhyan Grant into the area and his powerful low cross was diverted into his own net by the unfortunate McGing.
Already a goal down and under serious pressure, the Mariners made life almost impossible for themselves when McGing stuck out a leg as Ninkovic drove into the box.
While the Serbian made the most of the tackle, the referee awarded the spot-kick to allow Brosque to double the lead.
With another penalty – and Izzo’s red card – just a few minutes later, the Sky Blues had the three points secured inside half an hour.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Sydney FC have now won five straight games against the Mariners, their longest winning streak against Central Coast.
The Mariners are now on a club-record six game losing streak in the Hyundai A-League and their winless run away from home has extended to 21 matches.
Sydney FC had 15 shots a goal to the Mariners two, despite the visitors having more possession.
Struggling for goals for much of the season, the Sky Blues released the shackles on Saturday night and got their just rewards.
While the visitors helped their cause with some inept defending at times, Graham Arnold’s side played some sublime football and carved out some excellent chances, hitting the woodwork on a couple of occasion via Brandon O’Neill.
With a healthy, vocal crowd behind them, the Allianz atmosphere was rocking to cap a sensational night for the home side.
'Arnie' will be hoping this is a sign of things to come in 2016!
The last thing the Mariners needed trailing 2-0 was to go down to 10 men but that’s exactly what happened as Izzo – already on a yellow card – took down Blackwood in the box.
The indiscretion earned the young gloveman a second yellow card and an early shower, all but ending the match as a contest as Tavares slotted the penalty to make it 3-0.
Just moments after slotting away his second goal midway through the first half, Brosque was forced off with what appeared to be a hamstring problem. Ninkovic also came off in the second-half with a calf problem.
THE FINAL WORD
Given the way things have been going for Sydney FC, three points and four goals is just what Arnold would have ordered heading towards the second half of the season. But they’ll get a much sterner test of any sort of revival with a trip to Melbourne City next Saturday night.
Are the Mariners in crisis? At least six points adrift at the foot of the ladder and on a club-record six game losing streak, it would seem things can’t get much worse. The mantra might be all about entertainment and attacking football but it might be time to start thinking about grinding out results. Can they end 2015 on a high on New Year’s Eve against the Phoenix in Gosford.