Lively Victory draw with Mariners


Melbourne Victory’s unbeaten run extended to three matches after a 2-2 draw with the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday night at Etihad Stadium.

Melbourne Victory’s unbeaten run extended to three matches after a 2-2 draw with the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday night at Etihad Stadium.

One club may have changed but the rivalry remained between Victory coach Ange Postecoglou and the Mariners’ Graham Arnold, who had enjoyed an entertaining touchline battle during the former’s time at the Brisbane Roar.

It was no less intriguing on a new stage in Melbourne in front of 19,462 fans, where Daniel McBreen twice put the Mariners ahead, only for Victory to claim a point through headers from Andrew Nabbout and Mark Milligan.

The visitors survived the dismissal of defender Patrick Zwaanswijk early in the second half to depart with a point.

Victory had a red card of their own after Marcos Flores was sent off close to full-time, but could have stolen a win several times late in the second half.

Last week’s hero Nabbout – a late inclusion after Archie Thompson came down ill in the warm-up – took just three minutes to announce his arrival when Rojas somehow failed to make contact with his dangerous cross from the left.

But just 30 seconds later, Tom Rogic’s through ball exposed the Victory defence, and Sterjovski’s pin-point cross was prodded home by in-form striker McBreen to make it 1-0.

With new Australia international Rogic making an early mark, Victory boy wonder Marco Rojas responded with a few tricks of his own.

He showed the first of a pocketful of magic moves for the night when he jinked around Josh Rose to the byline before sending a superb cross in Nabbout’s direction.

The youngster with the golden touch delivered once more, directing a downward header past Mat Ryan to level the scores in the 10th minute.

Argentine Flores was beginning to pull the strings in midfield, but Victory goalkeeper Nathan Coe still needed to get down low to keep out a Michael McGlinchey shot that tried to sneak in at the near post.

Nabbout tried his luck on 19 minutes from outside the area after cutting inside, with the hosts possessing all the momentum and pressing high and hard.

But they were caught out having overcommitted when Sainsbury dinked a ball towards McBreen on the last line in the 23rd minute.

He outran and outmuscled Peter Franjic before finishing well past Coe to make it 2-1.

The goal came somewhat against play but Rojas continued to impress, beguiling Zwaanswijk, John Hutchinson and Josh Rose soon after in an entertaining piece of play.

The war was being waged almost exclusively under the noses of the coaches, with Rose and Nabbout trading dangerous crosses soon after Rogic had drawn a parry out of Coe in the 32nd minute.

The match seemed to be drifting towards half-time when the recalled Isaka Cernak’s inch-perfect cross from a free-kick deep on the right was nodded past Ryan by Milligan.

The marking was as poor as the ball was good.

The game’s make-up changed on 49 minutes after Zwaanswijk led with an elbow in an aerial challenge with Flores to pick up his second yellow card for the night, having been carded in the first half for kicking the ball away.

Rogic was withdrawn by Arnold for defender Zach Anderson, and Victory made the most of their advantage to test the Mariners.

Nabbout and Adama Traore tried their luck, but the best chance for a winner came in the 66th minute when Rojas again wowed the crowd by pouncing on Ryan’s spilled save.

He skipped around several defenders only to see his eventual shot kept out by keeper Pedj Bojic on the line.

There was a debut for Victory when Chris Christaldo came on for Nabbout after 70 minutes, but the game tightened up as the Mariners sat back to soak up whatever Victory threw at them.

It was more a case of scrappy chances rather than those that were clear-cut, and the send-off of Flores – again for a second yellow card – made little impact on the result.