The Central Coast Mariners came away with a 2-0 victory against Sydney FC at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Friday night to secure top spot and their first away win in seven years against the Sky Blues
An own goal from Ben Warland from a Daniel Bouman cross, and a strike from Alou Kuol proved enough for the visitors who held onto their lead well and came away with a two goal victory.
Steve Corica’s men are much the same side that lifted the trophy last year and they flexed their muscles early on in the match however Ruon Tongyik, who has been in great form to start the season, was a match for the speedy Barbarouses and Buhagiar.
The first half passed without much incident bar a good chance for Oli Bozanic after a well worked free kick routine found the captain unmarked at the back post, who could only direct his header wide.
The second half arrived with a bang with chances aplenty for both sides. Mark Birrighitti was again in stellar form and saved on multiple occasions to deny the Sky Blue outfit and the frustration began to grow for the fans in the stands and the players on the field.
Sydney thought they had the lead as Trent Buhagiar put the ball in the back of the net, only for it to be flagged for offside, and shortly after the Mariners took the lead.
The match was calling out for a bit of individual drive and that came from starting debutant Bouman, who carried the ball from just inside halfway and whipped in a low cross that was diverted into his own net by Ben Warland, thanks to pressure from birthday boy Matt Simon.
If that goal lifted the Mariners morale, it inspired Sydney FC to push harder for an equaliser which ultimately would never arrive thanks to desperate defending from the back four and superb work from Birighitti.
The pivotal moment of the match arrived in the 74th minute when a nice combination from Josh Nisbet and Jordan Smylie broke kindly to Alou Kuol. The confident youngster did not pass up on his opportunity and fired home into the corner via a deflection off a defender that beat Andrew Redmayne.
Sydney would huff and puff but couldn’t blow the Mariners defensive house down and the win sees the Mariners return to the top of the A-League table with three wins in four matches.
Attention now turns to a hectic period for the Yellow and Navy with a period of three home games in eight days, beginning with Wellington Phoenix on Sunday, 31st January.