Melbourne City FC’s Finals Series hopes suffered a major blow as John van’t Schip’s side crashed to defeat against eight-placed Central Coast Mariners on Sunday afternoon in Round 20 of the Hyundai A-League.
In the first of three crucial matches in six days against opponents below it on the ladder, Melbourne City FC had the opportunity to cement itself in the top six with a win, ahead of matches against Western Sydney Wanderers (Wednesday) and Newcastle Jets (Saturday).
But a Fabio Ferreira free kick in the 74th minute gave the Mariners all three points – two days after the Gosford-based club announced it had parted ways with Head Coach Phil Moss – meaning Melbourne City FC’s hold on sixth place is in jeopardy with Brisbane Roar in action against Western Sydney on Sunday evening.
City went agonisingly close to an equaliser in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time as Iain Ramsay’s close-range shot at the back post was saved from point-blank range by Central Coast stopper Liam Reddy in the 94th minute.
It was a bitter blow for Melbourne City, who dominated play during the first half, but couldn’t convert dominance into pressure on the scoreboard and ultimately paid the price in the second half as Ferreira buried a well-taken set-piece.
There were plenty of positives for the visitors heading into the match, with Massimo Murdocca earning his 200th Hyundai A-League appearance, while new signing – injury replacement Harry Novillo – commenced the match on the bench, but would be injected in the second half.
While an early chance fell to man-of-the-match Isaka Cernak in the ninth minute for the Mariners, it was City who created the more clear-cut chances in the first stanza.
Cernak, who received a long ball from midfielder Nick Montgomery, fired past Tando Velaphi’s upright in the first scare of the match, as the Mariners looked to threaten early.
From there, Melbourne looked the stronger of the two sides, with Reddy forced into a string of fine saves, while the Mariners defence were often on the back foot, although the home side defended valiantly.
One of City’s best chances fell in the 23rd minute when Aaron Mooy’s corner was flicked toward goal by Josh Kennedy, which brought a full-stretch reaction save from Reddy, before Patrick Kisnorbo headed the rebound over the bar, with an open goal gaping.
Anthony Caceres then denied City on the break with a last-ditch tackle, cutting out David Williams, who had been fed through on goal by Mooy on the half hour mark.
Kennedy found space to shoot from outside the area seven minutes later, curling a great shot toward Reddy’s top corner, but the ‘keeper dived to his left to tip the shot around the corner.
As they had early in the first, Mariners threatened early in the second half, with Montgomery finding Ferreira with a precision through-ball in the 50th minute, only for the Portugese winger to fire into the side netting.
Mariners’ best chance fell to Nick Fitzgerald six minutes later, with Ferreira providing a perfect cross into the six yard box, but Fitzgerald headed straight into the arms of a thankful Velaphi.
The solitary goal came in the 74th minute after Connor Chapman brought Cernak down on the edge of the area and with four Mariners’ players over the resulting free-kick, Ferreira fired home an alternative free-kick routine past a helpless Velaphi.
Melbourne looked to push for the eqauliser, throwing Frenchman Novillo into the fray, who looked lively down the left with his skill and pace, before moving more centrally.
But despite continuing to throw bodies forward and looping balls into the box, City’s last chance of the match fell to Ramsay, who, in the 94th minute, found himself on the end of a long Jason Hoffman throw-in at the back post, but couldn’t turn his close-range shot past Reddy, who blocked with his chest.
Hyundai A-League Round 20
Sunday, 8 March 2015
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Fabio Ferreira 74’)
Melbourne City FC 0
Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Referee: Jarred GILLETT
Central Coast Mariners: 3. Josh ROSE, 4. Jacob POSCOLIERO, 5. Zac ANDERSON, 7. John HUTCHINSON (c), 8. Nick MONTGOMERY, 10. Anthony CACERES (18. Glen TRIFIRO 86’), 11. Nick FITZGERALD, 12. Liam REDDY (gk), 23. Isaka CERNAK (2.Storm ROUX 87’), 25. Eddy BOSNAR, 26. Fabio FERREIRA (14. Travis MAJOR 87’)
Substitutes not used: 1. Matthew NASH (gk) and 16. Liam ROSE
Yellow cards: Bosnar 20’
Red cards: Nil
Melbourne City FC: 4. Connor CHAPMAN (7. Iain RAMSAY 85’), 5. Erik PAARTALU (17. Jason HOFFMAN 68’), 6. Aaron MOOY, 8. Massimo MURDOCCA, 10. Robert KOREN, 15. David WILLIAMS (9. Harry NOVILLO 55’), 16. Josh KENNEDY, 20. Tando VELAPHI (GK), 24. Patrick KISNORBO (c), 27. Kew JALIENS, 29. Safuwan BAHARUDIN
Substitutes not used: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 18. Paulo RETRE
Yellow cards: Baharudin 32’, Hoffman 70’ and Chapman 73’
Red cards: Nil