Mariners end Jets’ season with 2-1 win
Central Coast crushed Newcastle’s A-League finals hopes and boosted their own with a come-from-behind 2-1 win at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Friday night.
A second-half strike by Sasho Petrovski and an 80th-minute winner by substitute Matt Simon gave the Mariners a vital win after an early Joel Griffiths penalty had put the Jets in front and looking good for a second successive win.
The entertaining match ended in controversy, with Mariners striker Dylan Macallister earning a red card after the whistle and Simon a yellow following on on-field scuffle between both sides.
The loss means the Jets’ title defence is almost certainly over while it also soured the farewell of captain Jade North, who will leave the club next week to join South Korea’s Incheon United.
They remain stranded in last place, eight points off the top four with only four matches to play, and their night was made worse with what looked like serious injuries to striker Marko Jesic and defender Mark Milligan.
The Mariners moved temporarily into top spot with the win, one point ahead ahead of Adelaide United, who were playing Perth later on Friday.
Griffiths had the first chance of the match in the second minute and got his name on the scoresheet after referee Peter O’Leary awarded a controversial penalty in the eight minute.
Mariners winger Andre Gumprecht was booked for holding Jesic in the box and O’Leary had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Griffiths made no mistake with the spot kick, smashing it into the roof of the net to send a crowd of 11,413 into raptures.
The joy was shortlived for Jesic, who at 19 has already had two knee reconstructions, as he was forced off in the 16th minute and was visibly shattered.
The Jets looked certain to double their lead in the 27th minute when Matt Thompson made a break but Mariners ‘keeper Danny Vukovic denied him with a great save and stopped another shot from Griffiths on the follow up.
They Mariners looked more dangerous in the second half but Newcastle also pushed on to put the game beyond doubt, with the impressive Griffiths doing most of the damage.
The Mariners managed an equaliser in the 66th minute when Petrovski headed home from a pinpoint Dean Heffernan cross.
The Jets had gone desperately close to reclaiming the lead through Korean import Jin-Hyung Song before second-half substitute Simon broke their hearts with an 80th minute winner.
Simon, who has been struggling with a knee injury in recent weeks, did remarkably well after collecting the ball just outside the box, holding off defenders Adam Griffiths and Jobe Wheelhouse before calming sidefooting past Ante Covic to take his tally for the season to nine.
The melee after the whistle was believed to be sparked when Mariners midfielder John Hutchinson kicked a ball into the Jets’ supporters bay and Griffiths retaliated.
Macallister was given his marching orders for using abusive language.
Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna was disappointed in his players but was keen to see if action would be taken against Griffiths or any other Jets players.
“After the game, there’s no need for it,” McKinna said.
“I don’t know what happened, I know everyone was diving in there getting involved.
“It’s just funny that everyone’s in there and two of your players get cards.
“It will be interesting to see if there’s footage of that because I know John Hutchinson had hands wrung around his throat when it all started so it will be interesting to see what comes out of that.”
Macallister’s red card and Simon’s fifth yellow card of the season means both will be suspended for Wednesday’s home clash with Perth.
“I’d rather talk about the great comeback,” McKinna said.
“We gave away a soft penalty … and then to come back in the second half with a good performance and unlucky not to go further ahead it was fantastic.”
Jets coach Gary van Egmond, when asked if he thought his season was over, said: “Yes, I believe so … barring a minor miracle it’s definitely over.
“But we don’t want to finish with the wooden spoon so there’s obviously an incentive and also there’s preparation for the ACL (Asian Champions League).”
Van Egmond feared Jesic had torn his anterior cruciate ligament but said Milligan’s ankle injury was less serious, estimating it was more a “two to four week” injury.© AAP 2013
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