The way the game goes sometimes
  Sun 25th Jan 2009
2008/2009 Hyundai A-League - Round 21 between Central Coast Mariners and Adelaide United at Central Coast Stadium
Central Coast Mariners 0 were defeated by Adelaide United 1 (Cristiano 81')
Source: Back of the Net
They came to Gosford needing to win by two clear goals against the Central Coast Mariners, if they were to claim the gong as Premiers, but Asian Champions League runners-up, Adelaide United, fell one short, managing to score their solitary goal only right near the end of a match where they encountered strong opposition throughout.

The Mariners, with nothing to play for with their own fourth place impossible to improve upon or relinquish, made the visitors work hard for 90 minutes and contributed to an exhilarating contest that was laden with drama and high quality entertainment.

It took a combination of two Adelaide substitutes, ace marksman Cristiano who came on in the 68th minute and fledgling A League talent, ex Sydney-sider Robert Younis, who came on in the 79th, to prise open an otherwise impregnable Mariners' defence.

Winning with an 82nd minute goal of some high intensity meant that the South Australians could only draw level on points and on goal difference with former Premiers, Melbourne Victory, who claimed the automatic Asian Champions League place for 2010 on a better tally of goals scored, which was the only way the two top teams could be separated at the finish.

It was not as if Adelaide did not have the advantage going into the last match, as Melbourne Victory had played 48 hours earlier and managed to come up with a gripping 2-0 win over a valiant Wellington Phoenix.

If that match was close, this one was even closer.

Most at the stadium had high hopes of Central Coast completing their season with a home win, although many expected Adelaide to have the greater desire, with the prize of top spot available to them.

Now they will need to win the Grand Final if they are to go back to Asia in two seasons time, unless they are Grand Final losers, instead, to the Melbourne side.

Adelaide had the better of the game - but only marginally - suffering from at least one refereeing decision that could easily have gone the other way and watching as shots twice come back off the frame of the goal.

Central Coast had two players suspended and two others sitting precariously on yellow cards, but they never played like a team without hunger or with undue caution.

Instead, the absence of the suspended Andrew Clark and Dean Heffernan gave staunch club man, Paul O'Grady, the chance to shine and the one-time Parramatta Power and Parramatta Melita Eagles defender had an outstanding match, as did likely Socceroo understudy goalkeeper, Danny Vukovic.

When Robbie Younis eventually got to the right by-line with an explosive burst and cut the ball back from six yards to the near post the brilliance of Cristiano was seen at its best.

It needed a striker's finish, something nobody else on either side had been unable to provide for the preceding 81 minutes, and the Brazilian did not disappoint his coach or a healthy contingent of 'Reds' fans who had travelled, complete with massive club flag, draped over the bluetongue Stadium grandstand seats in one corner, at the end of the ground where the winner was created, for good measure.

Younis did exceptionally well to shake off an Alex Wilkinson challenge and Cristiano had to be at his sharpest to get to the ball before the keeper could block it.

Earlier in the match both teams had spurned easier opportunities.

Admittedly, both likely Socceroo keeper for the game against Indonesia on Wednesday night in Jakarta, Eugene Galekovic, and Vukovic were in splendid touch.

Paul Reid, another likely Socceroo starter and a hero of the Reds? ACL campaign, orchestrated chance after chance, with hard-running skipper Travis Dodd on the end of a sixth minute through pass that produced a cracking volley that Vukovic did well to tip over the bar.

Paul Agostino, injury-troubled for much of the season, and a former Socceroo himself, led the line well for the visitors; but his lack of recent match practice probably told when two great chances he had went begging.

He just failed to get a clean head on a great cross from the right by the very impressive A-League debutant, right back Michael Marrone, and the ball went wide of the left upright.

Adelaide had Daniel Mullen out injured, along with key players Cassio and Alemao similarly sidelined, while the Mariners had Pedj Bojic under a cloud due to impending suspension had he received another caution in this game and his coach Lawrie McKinna pulled him off at the break, leaving on Brad Porter who was under a similar threat, but emerged unscathed.

Kristian Sarkies and Lucas Pantelis were given a lot of responsibility for the Reds and neither disappointed, with Pantelis in particular always looking dangerous.

Clever work from Pantelis in the 11th set up Sarkies who then saw Vukovic deny him with a fine save at the near post.

Nigel Boogaard, another handed extra responsibility at the heart of the Central Coast defence, came up with a rare 35 yard volley in the 22nd minute which only just cleared the crossbar when he ventured forward.

Boogaard was later to escape the attention of referee Matthew Breeze after his challenge on Pantelis in the 61st left the Adelaide man sprawling just inside the penalty area, Many watching felt that not only was it a foul but that it had happened clearly inside the box, a real let-off for the Mariners.

Central Coast were not without their chances.

Unfortunately when shots were 'on', they chose to pass and when passes were called for they elected to shoot.

Dylan Macallister won the ball well in the 27th minute but chose to take on one man too many, once inside the 18 yard area, probably one of the opportunities McKinna was referring to later as wrong decisions made, that had cost his side dearly.

The extra touch' on this occasion made it easier for Galekovic to eventually make the save.

For the visitors Pantelis was out of luck in the 31st when his free kick bounced off the right hand post and then hit Vukovic on the forehead before the ball was scrambled clear.

A minute later, after another Adelaide free kick, Agostino had two shots in succession blocked by O'Grady, the second time while the big defender lay prostrate on the ground in the six yard box.

It was not Agostino's day, but he showed enough to suggest he can still make a vital contribution in his last days with the A League side, perhaps helping them beat Melbourne in the two-legged Major Semi-Final, if he stays fit and finds his true touch.

Two more first half chances were spurned by Central Coast, John Hutchinson unable to reach Porter's 35th minute right sided cross, at the penalty mark and Macallister missing a heading chance from Matt Simon's 41st minute ball played in.

Adrian Caceres was another to flatter to deceive, dragging a shot wide in the 46th after some good work setting up chances for others in the first period.

Scott Jamieson was able to give Dodd an early second half way to break the deadlock, but from a superb cross the big Adelaide man rattled his header against the bar and the Reds still had much to do.

A draw would have seen them slump to third, behind Queensland, so even a single strike would give them the second chance runners-up spot affords them.

Impressive wide man Marrone, a Youth League star for the Reds, looked like providing some much needed spark on the right, but he was foiled by another wonderful O'Grady tackle in the 55th.

Dodd did well to set up Cristiano moments after the player had come on for Agostino, but under immense pressure and yet to find his touch, the Brazilian struck his effort narrowly wide.

Nik Mrdja had a number of chances for the Mariners, after coming on at half time, but while two of his good right-footed shots missed narrowly, one tipped over the bar by the alert Galekovic, his two left-footed opportunities were less impressive, as he appeared to take wrong options.

If Mrdja and Caceres can lift marginally and the Mariners welcome back Heffernan and Clark to show sound form then there is hope that they can deliver a blow to Queensland Roar's hopes in the Elimination Semi-Final two-legged affair that begins in ten days' time.

After Cristiano had broken the deadlock Adelaide pressed on for the much-needed second goal.

Cristiano could only find the side-netting from Reid?s pass in the 83rd and Dodd's stoppage time drive was superbly tipped over by Vukovic.

The Mariners even then refused to concede, as Greg Owens supplied Mrdja with the chance to volley a potential equaliser in the 90th; but the big striker crashed his effort just over the bar.

All honours to Adelaide, but full praise must go to the Gosford-based side for keeping Adelaide honest, sentiments long-time politician, the late Don Chipp, would probably have endorsed had we not been talking about a football team.

For this was no 'dead rubber' for the Mariners who played it with genuine passion if not the kind of clear thinking their coach would have preferred to see.

The day was tinged with sadness for Adelaide as the players took the field wearing black arms bands after their gear steward John Brannigan had died the previous morning of a sudden stroke.

"Credit to Adelaide, they had to go for the win and they put us on the back foot and there were no surprises there," said Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna after the game.

"We absorbed a lot of pressure but when we did break and go forward, we had to do better with the ball. In the first half and probably more in the second half, we created great chances and opportunities going forward, but gave the ball away and didn’t find the man."

"We’ve lost the last three against the three teams above us, so hopefully we’ve learnt a wee bit from that, but we have to get better," added McKinna.

"If we’re not any better than what we were tonight, we’ll play two games and we’ll be out, if we get better than that, we can go through to the next round. Put simply, we have to improve, we defended well against a team that had to win the game, but when we’ve got the ball, we have to do better with it."

"I think we put in a fantastic effort tonight. We could have had more than the one (goals) but that’s the way the game goes sometimes," Adelaide coach Aurelio Vidmar said after the match.

"It wasn’t through the lack of trying. We hit the bar, hit the post and one came off Vukovic’s face. It’s difficult because you never think it’s going to go in but we persisted, got a goal and tried hard to get another one but it wasn’t to be. But I can’t complain, the effort was fantastic."

"We haven’t beaten them this year yet and it’s certainly going to be a tough game," Vidmar said about the upcoming final against The Reds’ arch rivals Melbourne Victory, who they will play first for a grand final spot.

"Finishing second gives us a 'goof' opportunity, and once the finals start its a different kettle of fish."

By Paul Green.

Central Coast Mariners 0 were defeated by Adelaide United 1 (Cristiano 81')
Match Statistics:
Crowd: 12351

Central Coast Mariners FC :
Player listing:
20. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, , 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 13. Paul O'GRADY, 4. Pedj BOJIC (9. Nik MRDJA 46), 5. Bradley PORTER, 2. Andre GUMPRECHT, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 10. Adrian CACERES (12. Greg OWENS 62), 11. Dylan MACALLISTER (28. Matthew LEWIS 87), 19. Matt SIMON
Substitutes not used: 30 Andrew Redmayne (rgk)

Coach: Lawrie McKinna

Yellow Cards: Matt Simon 75'
Red Cards: Nil

Adelaide United FC :
Player listing:
20. Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk), 27 Michael MARRONE, 2.Robert CORNTHWAITE, 5.Michael VALKANIS, 14.Scott JAMIESON, 7.Lucas PANTELIS (25.Robert YOUNIS 79), 24.Paul REID, 8 Kristian SARKIES,18.Fabian BARBIERO, 13.Travis DODD (c), 9.Paul AGOSTINO (10.CRISTIANO 68)
Substitutes not used: 30.Mark Birighitti (rgk), 15. Jonas Salley

Coach: Aurelio Vidmar

Yellow Cards: Fabian Barbieri 35', Robert Cornthwaite 45'
Red Cards: Nil

Referee: Matthew Breeze , 6 / 10
Pitch: 7 / 10
Game: 9 / 10

Best Players:
3. Paul O'Grady (CCM)
2. Paul Reid (AU)
1. Travis Dodd (AU)
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