·31 December 2022
·31 December 2022
Central Coast Mariners have downed Melbourne Victory 2-1 in front of 10,373 revelling fans at Industree Group Stadium on Saturday night.
There can’t be too many complaints from the away side, who suffered their fifth loss in just nine games so far in 2022-23, heaping more pressure on the beleaguered squad and manager Tony Popovic.
It was an even start with both teams trying to feel their way into this New Year’s Even contest.
Just as the Mariners started to gain the ascendency they opened the scoring through Jason Cummings’ header. A pinpoint cross from Roux found the Socceroos forward in the penalty area and Cummings made no mistake with the finish.
After a horror couple of weeks for the league’s biggest club, it was another abject start after conceding the first goal in three of their last four games (including the abandoned Melbourne Derby). A stunned Tony Popovic looked on from the technical area wondering how his side were going to find a way back.
In response, Nani found some space on the edge of the 18-yard area but could only hit a listless shot that was easily swallowed by Danny Vukovic.
Cummings thought he had doubled his money when he finished past Matt Acton after Victory failed to deal with a corner kick but VAR intervened and it was chalked off for offside. That must now be close to a record for most goals disallowed for an individual player in only 10 rounds.
Looking for an equaliser, Popovic’s side looked most threatening from set-pieces, unable to find much penetration in open play.
That was until Vukovic fell asleep for a moment and allowed Victory left-back Cadete’s strike to beat him at his near post, with the visitors right back in the game in an instant after creating nothing of any real note.
Cummings, still chasing his second of the game, went close with a curled effort that didn’t quite come back enough and flew harmlessly past the upright.
On balance, Central Coast were unlucky not to be further ahead. Outside of their goal, the visitors had very little to offer in the first 45 minutes while the Mariners had created numerous opportunities and also saw Cummings’ second goal disallowed.
As the lights came on at Industree Group Stadium for the second half, it was Victory who made the brighter start. Nani found an unmarked Cadete in the penalty area but the Spaniard could only redirect the cross high over the crossbar.
But before too long Central Coast had the lead back through who else but Cummings. It was another goal-mouth scramble but this time with the lively No.9 in a legal position, VAR could not deny him again.
And again there was a mountain to climb for Victory.
From a counter-attack Josh Nisbet was played in by Kuol and won a penalty when Acton was adjudged to have illegally brought down the nimble midfielder, but a VAR check dispelled that theory and the spot-kick was rescinded.
Chasing the game, Popovic’s side left themselves exposed at the back and the pace of the Mariners’ forwards looked ominous for Victory.
Kuol was substituted in the 78th minute and received a standing ovation as he left the Industree Group Stadium turf for the final time, another special moment in a special player’s very young career.
Continuing the theme of the night, the away side simply had no answers from open play, looking absolutely toothless in attack.
There was no change to the scoreline as Victory suffered another loss and Central Coast went to second on the live ladder.
Central Coast Mariners 2 (Cummings 11′, 53′)Melbourne Victory 1 (Cadete 39′)
Kuol bids adieu to the A-League
Garang Kuol, it’s been a pleasure. The plucky 18-year-old, whose family came to this country as refugees from South Sudan, was held scoreless tonight but has dazzled us at A-League level, mostly off the bench, and even earnt a call-up for the FIFA World Cup. Not just that, but came on in the Socceroos’ do-or-die Round of 16 clash with eventual champions Argentina and almost sent the hype into the stratosphere with an injury time shot that was kept out by Emiliano Martinez with a great save.
Now Kuol is off to the bright lights of St James’ Park with Newcastle United. Whether he stays with the first team for the balance of the English Premier League season, drops down to the reserve side or heads out on loan somewhere on the continent, Australian football fans will be keeping a keen eye on the youngster’s exploits and wishing him all the best.
Farewell, Garang, and thanks for all the memories.
Pressure on Popovic ramps right up
Steve Corica is probably glad there’s now another A-League manager whose job is in question.
Unlike Corica, however, the former Socceroos centre-half is coming off a successful campaign in 2021-22, which will surely buy him more time but the Victory board’s patience is limited. After the off-season acquisition of Nani expectations were high at AAMI Park, and even before the awful scenes of the Melbourne Derby, the up-and-down nature of Victory’s season was in full effect.
Now forced to play at least one home game without their supporters, it could get worse before it gets better for Victory. They’re by no means out of the finals race at this stage, but five losses in nine games is an unacceptable return from this squad and they need some kind of circuit breaker – and soon – before their 2022-23 title challenge is extinguished for good.
10,000 see off Kuol and 2022 in Gosford
The Central Coast Mariners have usually punched above their weight on the field in the history of the A-League, and with some impressive attendances they’ve been doing the same off-field as well. On the final day of 2022, a crowd of 10,373 fans seeing off Newcastle United-bound Garang Kuol is another great result.
Keep in mind too that number would be affected by the lack of Victory travelling fans, who would usually number in the hundreds up on the Central Coast, be it travelling fans or expats living in Sydney and its surrounding areas.
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