It was an entertaining end to the season at Marconi Stadium as the Marconi Stallions secured a 5-4 victory over the Central Coast Mariners on Sunday afternoon.
The nine goals gave fans plenty to be excited about on the day as the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 2023 season came to a close after 30 rounds.
An early goal from Martin Fernandez set the scene at Marconi Stadium, but an equaliser from Aydan Hammond moments later brought the hosts back to reality.
The Stallions kicked into gear, with goals to Jordan Swibel, Fernandez again, and an own goal from Andre Parkes, which saw the hosts with a 4-1 lead at the half-time break.
The Mariners managed to get three in the second half through George Daniel, Maksim Kasalovic and Hammond again, with Marconi’s Justin Vidic getting one more for the hosts in the second stanza.
An offside call for the visitors gave Marconi the perfect opportunity in the 9th minute as Stallions ‘keeper James Hilton played the ball quickly to Marko Jesic, who sent a brilliant ball well up the park to an on-running Fernandez.
Fernandez controlled the ball before chipping it over Mariners ‘keeper Dylan Peraic-Cullen to open the scoring in the match.
The Mariners were quick to get back in the game, getting the equaliser moments later.
The visitors played forward quickly and weaved through the field to Nicholas Duarte in front of the goal, who passed it on to an unmarked Hammond, who fired a goal in.
A corner in the 16th minute gave the hosts a chance to get ahead again, with Fernandez finding the net for a second time in the match after heading home the ball, but Jesic was adjudged to be impeding the goalkeeper with referee Nick Gela disallowing the goal.
The Stallions took back the lead in the 29th minute from a set-piece opportunity.
Jesic threw a long ball to the head of Nathan Millgate, who flicked it on to Swibel, who nodded it over the line to earn back the lead for the hosts.
Hirokai Aoyama came close to netting one in the 37th minute but his effort slid just wide of the goal.
A mistake from the Mariners gave the hosts a chance for another in the 38th minute as Domenic Costanzo pounced on the mis-hit ball.
Costanzo played through a waiting Fernandez who confidently shook off the Mariners defence to send the ball past Peraic-Cullen.
It was almost four for Marconi in the 43rd minute as Jesic sent a cracking cross to Swibel, but the number 9’s header flew above the crossbar.
Just moments later the Stallions did take their tally to four as Costanzo sent a shot curling towards the goal, which deflected off the boot of Central Coast Andre Parkes and into the net.
Aoyama sent a ball blazing towards the target in the 1st minute of injury time in the first half, but Peraic-Cullen managed a brilliant save to deny the midfielder.
A throw-in from a dangerous position gave the Mariners an opportunity in the 52nd minute as Bailey Brandtman weaved through Marconi’s defence before passing to an unmarked Daniel who passed it into the netting from close range.
Hammond had an opportunity to further close the gap for the Mariners in the 58th minute as he got on the end of a long ball, but his effort flew above the target.
Central Coast came asking for more in the 59th minute but the shot from William Arnold was well defended by Hilton to deny.
Substitute Samuel Gulisano made an immediate impact with a chance in the 71st minute as he fired a shot towards goal.
His effort came off his own player Costanzo, but he fired again from the rebound and Peraic-Cullen was well positioned to deny.
Mariners had a promising opportunity through substitute Adam Hall in the 83rd minute but Hilton was able to keep the visitors at bay.
The perseverance of the Mariners paid off in the 87th minute as Kasalovic took them to three with an impressive strike from range.
A hungry Vidic ran down the ball in the 90th minute to strip goalkeeper Peraic-Cullen of the ball, which dribbled into the right corner of the goal.
The ninth goal of the entertaining clash came in the fourth minute of injury time for the visitors as Daniel played the ball to Hammond who tapped it in from close range, with the match finishing moments later at 5-4 to the Stallions.
Marconi Assistant Coach Peter Papoythis commended his squad on a great year and gave credit to the impressive performance from the young Mariners.
“Today was a dead rubber for both of us, but we still made an effort to win, we wanted to finish as high as we could on the ladder and going out with the win is always important end of the season,” he said.
“I thought we were okay today, we attacked well.
“Full credit to the Mariners and Abbas, his young kids, they just kept coming and they scored some fantastic goals at the end and they’ve got a bright future, the young mariners players, and he’s a fantastic coach and he’ll bring the best out of them.
“After the game he was out there coaching, the season’s over and good on Abbas, I’m so happy for him and he’s a good lad.
“Tomorrow we start retaining and recruiting so the season’s never over for coaches, it’s an all year round thing and it was a good year – we were in the top three for the whole season.
“When you start a season off, you want to finish first and we’re an ambitious club and we always want to finish at the top.
“It wasn’t meant to be but we had a great year, we were in the top three all year and I can’t complain, my boys put a fantastic effort in every game.
“Our pitches weren’t ready at the back here, we had to train at other grounds, we had the Colombian women’s team take our main pitch for a very long time, but the boys never complained, they put in every week and I love them for that.”
Central Coast Mariners coach Abbas Saad was very pleased with the performance his side delivered.
“It was a game of two halves, you could say, we got punished for our mistakes,” he explained.
“It’s a very young team, we had three 17 year olds at the back, some of them for their first game, plus the goalkeeper is 17, so that’s four, but we wanted to play and unfortunately they made mistakes and we got punished against a good team.
“The second half we played very well, we played really, really well and we could have scored a lot more than the three that we scored in the second half.
“Am I disappointed? I’m not disappointed we lost to Marconi, I didn’t expect to come here and beat them with the squad that I had today but to push them all the way was a big effort.
“We want to play and the kids need to play, they need to learn how to play, it’s their development, it’s their future and the only way they’re going to do it is under pressure – I want them to play under pressure.
“We conceded four out of the five out off our mistakes and another day we could have kept them down to one or two goals, but it is what it is, it’s the only way forward.
“It’s been an unbelievable season, for us to be safe six or seven weeks before the competition ends is an unbelievable achievement with the squads that we’ve had.
“We’ve had a lot of young kids, it’s one of the youngest squads in the league, but the efforts and improvement from the players and especially the team over the course of the season has been excellent.”
Marconi Stallions FC 5 (Fernandez 9’, 38’, Swibel 29’, Parkes(OG) 43’, Vidic 90’)
Central Coast Mariners 4 (Hammond 10’, 90+4’, Daniel 52’, Kasalovic 87’)
Sunday 27th August, 2023
Marconi Stadium, Bossley Park
Referee: Nick Gela
Assistant Referees: Cameron Wright and Aaron Bloch
Fourth Official: Hadi Al-Nakeeb
Marconi Stallions FC: 24. James Hilton, 2. Nathan Millgate (5. Liam McGing 77’), 3. Giorgio Speranza, 6. Domenic Costanzo, 9. Jordan Swibel (21. Justin Vidic 72’), 10. Marko Jesic (39. Matthew Hatch 70’), 11. Daniel Bouman (12. Samuel Gulisano 70’), 17. Martin Fernandez (13. Aleksandar Duricic 77’), 22. Taylor McDonald, 23. Brandon Vella
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Marcus Petrovski
Yellow Cards: Millgate 76’, Hatch 79’
Red Cards: Nil
Central Coast Mariners FC: 20. Dylan Peraic-Cullen, 2. Tommy Edmonds (14. Luke Oresti 45’), 10. Nicholas Duarte (18. George Daniel 45’), 11. Bailey Brandtman, 15. Aydan Hammond, 16. William Arnold, 20. Dylan Peraic-Cullen, 21. Maksim Kasalovic (36. Zachariah Waddell 90+3’), 22. Andre Parkes (8. Dianni Di Pizio 63’), 25. Jacob Tresoglavic, 26. Max Middleby (9. Adam Hall), 31. Amponsah Antwi
Substitutes Not Used: 30. Lewis Alvarez
Yellow Cards: Duarte 15’, Middleby 76’
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Martin Fernandez (MS)
2 – Aydan Hammond (CCM)
1 – Hirokai Aoyama (MS)
-By Madeline Riley