Mariners celebrate amazing fightback
Central Coast Mariners managed to draw with Adelaide United after trailing by three with 25 minutes to play at Hindmarsh Stadium. Recently announced Qantas Socceroos Mile Jedinak and Matt Simon were the heroes for the visitors, with the formers brace and the latter's equaliser securing the yellow and navy a most unlikely point away to the AFC Champions League semi finalists.
Earlier, Travis Dodd, Robert Cornthwaite and Cristiano looked to have secured the points for the home side, who were always more clinical than convincing against a Mariners outfit that oozed the character that has become a trademark of the reigning Premiers.
This result recorded on a frosty evening in the South Australian capital was packed with the theatre, melodrama and romance of a Hollywood epic, with the Mariners' entire squad contributing lead role performances that would ultimately win the visitors a priceless Hyundai A-League point.
"At half-time when it was 2-0, we were of the belief that we could come back, we weren't looking at three goals, we weren't looking at two, we were looking at one to put them on the back foot," said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna after the match.
"When we lost the goal early in the second half, we made a change, we went to three up front and it worked for us.
"Dylan Macallister came on and did fantastically, Sasho did well, Matt Simon did well and Caceres could have scored a hat-trick - it worked and we felt as though we could have won the game in the last few minutes."
After such a convincing display against the Perth Glory at Bluetongue Stadium seven days earlier, the Mariners were slow out of the blocks against the confident Reds - who duly punished the visitors with two goals within the first twenty minutes.
Firstly, Adelaide captain Dodd slotted home from the penalty spot on seven minutes after Pedj Bojic was ruled to have fouled Reds striker Cristiano on the fringe of the penalty box.
Twelve minutes further on, Adelaide doubled their advantage when AFC Champions League hero Cornthwaite powered home a corner from close range after out foxing the Mariners' tall timber.
From this point, the Mariners were faced with a most unenvied challenge - netting at least two goals against a team that hasn't dropped a point at home in four Hyundai A-League matches in order to salvage something from the fixture.
To their credit, the visitors responded with aplomb and were it not for the irresistible form of Adelaide goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic, the Mariners could well have been level by the break.
Adrian Caceres had two superb efforts from long range tipped over the crossbar by the Adelaide shot stopper, while Sasho Petrovski was denied from close range after a penalty box scrap resulted in the season three Mariners Golden Boot winner being put through one on one.
Indeed, the Mariners' consistent and positive forward advances loomed ominously for the visitors, only for Brazilian marksman Cristiano to momentarily curb any momentum McKinna's charges had built with a poachers strike just five minutes after the break.
Cristiano was on hand to glance home Sasa Ognenovski's header from another well weighted Adelaide corner to put the home side in a commanding position with forty minutes still to play.
Adelaide's third didn't dampen the Mariners' resolve, however, and from this point on the yellow and navy enjoyed their most dominant period of the match.
Such dominance brought about the Mariners' first goal of the evening - another penalty, this time awarded after Simon was tripped by Angelo Costanzo on the back of a typically searching run into the penalty box.
Simon's Qantas Socceroo team-mate Jedinak confidently stepped up to slam home his third goal of the campaign and breathe new life into an unlikely Mariners flight back.
Unlikely as it may have seemed, Jedinak pulled the Mariners to within a goal with a tremendous long distance drive on 75 minutes that bamboozled the previously bulletproof Galekovic.
Unlikely became unbelievable when Simon drew the Mariners level nine minutes after Jedinak's strike and 34 minutes after Cristiano had established a three-goal lead for the home side.
The celebrations from the Mariners on the pitch, on the bench and from those clad in yellow in the grandstands captured the moment perfectly - put simply, the greatest comeback in the history of the Hyundai A-League.
"After their penalty they were on the front foot and credit to them, they pumped us, then we gave away a bad second goal and it took us about ten or fifteen minutes to come back into the game," said McKinna.
"To lose another goal early in the second half - it could have been four or five after that, but credit must go to the team for the way they played."