Super sub Matt Simon buried two stoppage-time penalties to cap an astonishing comeback as the Central Coast Mariners snatched a dramatic 3-2 win against Melbourne Victory.
Simon slammed a 100th-minute spot-kick in off the crossbar to clinch the Mariners' first win over Victory in 19 attempts after another Central Coast sub, Michael McGlinchey, was pushed to the ground by Leigh Broxham seven minutes into added time.
The veteran forward held his nerve under pressure twice in six minutes, after he had converted a 94th-minute penalty to level the scores when a VAR review overturned referee Kurt Ams’ decision and awarded a spot-kick for hand ball.
Marco Kurz’s side thought they had snatched three points for themselves when a freak own goal from Kye Rowles gifted the visitors a 78th-minute lead at Central Coast Stadium.
Rowles himself had endured a rollercoaster match after he celebrated putting Central Coast 2-1 up on 52 minutes only for his goal to be ruled out after he strayed marginally offside during a goalmouth scramble.
Kristijan Dobras had slammed Victory into an early lead at Central Coast Stadium and Jordan Murray equalised on the stroke of half-time, before the mayhem ensued and the Mariners clinched their first triumph over Victory since April 2013.
Victory started on the front foot in the first minute when Dobras sneaked a shot through a crowd of players as Birighitti had to be alert to parry wide, but the Mariners keeper had no chance when the Austrians’s eighth-minute strike redirected off Miller’s lunge into the corner of the Mariners net.
The Hyundai A-League’s busiest keeper, Birighitti, was called into action again on 14 minutes to block Nabbout’s close-range effort before Poulsen hit a curving 25-yard effort wide, but Central Coast made a rare chance count when Murray towered highest to head in Miller’s delivery on 44 minutes.
The visitors thought they had taken the lead eight minutes after the restart but Rowles was adjusted offside when he scrambled in a shot after Jair’s header from Milan Duric’s delivery was bobbling around the box, and the Mariners pushed forward for an advantage until Rowles slice of misfortune.
The despairing 21-year-old centre back saw the ball bounce off his shins and into his own net on after Adama Traore’s cross beat diving Mariners goalkeeper Birighitti and cannoned back of the post with 12 minutes remaining.
Stajcic’s side continued their attacking thrust and they got the break their play deserved as the clock ticked past 90 when Murray’s header from Sammy Silvera’s delivery bounced off James Donachie’s hand and, a VAR review later, Simon smashed the ball down the centre to level the scores.
A dust-up involving players from both sides ensued as this clash built to a crescendo and referee Ams awarded a second penalty, which Simon converted to spark wild scenes at the full-time whistle as Victory coach Kurz was showed a red card and sent to the stands.
Poulsen find Dobras on the edge of the area and the Austrian does the rest
Poulsen takes aim but curls a shot narrowly wide of the post
Mariners punish wasteful Victory as Murray heads in the equaliser
Rowles' fluke own goal gifts Victory a fortunate lead
Simon rescues a point with a 94th-minute penalty
Simon shows nerves of steel to win it in the 100th minute
Western United FC v Central Coast Mariners
Sunday, 19 January 2020
Kick off: 4pm AEDT
Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory
Friday, 17 January 2020
Kick off: 7pm local, 7.30pm AEDT