It was a roller coaster ride on the Central Coast as Melbourne City walked away with a point against the Mariners on New Years Eve with Tim Cahill and Bruno Fornaroli on the score sheet.
City saw one change to the eleven from last week as Nick Fitzgerald moved into the side for Manny Muscat as Nicolas Colazo moved into the fullback position.
With the two ball-playing sides going head to head, City looked to hit the home side with a high press and almost found the fruits of that after five minutes.
Mariners keeper Paul Izzo was quick off his line as Luke Brattan clipped through a ball towards Tim Cahill and the custodian just beat the attacker to the ball, collecting in the knick of time.
Cahill was in the thick of the action four minutes later as a cutback across the penalty area saw the Socceroos legend show awareness leaving the ball for Nick Fitzgerald to force Izzo in a strong low save.
After the early warning signs from City, the home side worked their way into the match, creating half chances through Blake Powell and Trent Buhagiar on the break.
City then threw the sucker punch after the Mariners tide-turning period as Cahill found himself free in the penalty area. An inch-perfect cross from Bruce Kamau saw the attacker nod home for one of his easiest headed goals in his career.
He then had a chance to double his tally only minutes later as it was only Cahill, Izzo and the goal ahead of the forward as he elected to striker with power, seeing his effort fizz wide of the upright.
The Marines were close to an equaliser minutes after the restart as a cleared corner was recycled and Rory O’Donovan was through on goal but Dean Bouzanis was quick off his line, making an important stop to deny the Irishman.
A stop in play for a head injury to Luke Brattan and a string of changes for the away side saw the tone of the match change as City should have gone two up through Kamau after 77 minutes.
The striker, in on goal on the edge of the area, elected to cutback to Bruno Fornaroli rather than try his effort on goal and the decision would prove to be costly.
The eventuating corner was cleared and the counter attack was on as Trent Buhagiar levelled the scores. His effort left Bouzanis with no chance as it kissed the underside of the cross bar to restore parity.
It wasn’t long after before the Mariners were in the lead as Buhagiar turned provider for O’Donovan and the striker taped in from the youngster’s cutback after 85 minutes.
The moment sparked City into action and four minutes later, they were handed the opportunity to bring it back level. Daniel Arzani, fouled by Scott Galloway, opened the door for Fornaroli to hit double figures for the season, as the striker made no mistake from the spot.
It was a roller coaster of emotion as City looked to be coasting to staring down the barrel of an unlikely defeat to being unlucky themselves not to find the winner with Arzani’s guilt-edged opportunity.
In the third minute of extra time, the young midfielder showed his inexperience, driving in on goal one-on-one with Izzo and sliding his effort horribly wide with a free Anthony Caceres waiting for the cutback in the area.
It wasn’t to be for City though as they walked away with a point from a match they would have felt they should have got all three points.
Man of the Match – Luke Brattan
The midfielder was once again the man to pull the strings for City as his influence on the game was reflected by the amount of times he was fouled by the Mariners.
Brattan was the link between defence and attack in transition and his creativity once again shone through. Despite copping a head knock in the second half, he showed little signs of the incident affecting him as he soldiered on and looked to create the final chances in the dying embers of the match.
SAP Match Stats
It’s the Wanderers at home up next for City and with tonight’s draw taken into account, three points will be a must heading into the New Year.
The turn of the year will hopefully be a fresh start for City who can officially close the chapter that was 2016 and with an indifferent the past couple of weeks, hopefully 2017 will bring a clean slate for the squad.