Kennedy heroics help Mariners clinch Hyundai A-League epic
Ben Kennedy was a two-time penalty hero as Central Coast Mariners weathered an almighty late storm to emerge 3-2 winners over Newcastle Jets in Saturday evening's extraordinary Hyundai A-League F3 Derby.
Alen Stajcic's side established a remarkable three-goal advantage midway through the second period thanks to goals from Jordan Murray, Jem Karacan and Connor Pain.
But Newcastle rallied through Roy O'Donovan and Ronny Vargas to ensure yet another nervy finale for the struggling Gosford club, which culminated in the award of a stoppage-time penalty kick to the Jets for Jonathan Aspropotamitis’ foul on the Irishman O'Donovan.
However, having seen his initial spot-kick saved and buried on the follow up by Daniel Georgievski, referee Adam Kersey decided that the penalty would be re-taken after Video Assistant Referee review indicated that the Jets fullback had encroached on the penalty kick.
O’Donovan returned to the spot as the clock neared 100 minutes, but Kennedy denied the forward again to conclude one of the most memorable Hyundai A-League fixtures in recent memory.
All told, it was the Mariners’ first away win in the Hyundai A-League since November 2017 and inflicts a serious dent on the top-six aspirations of their local rivals.
For the first time in seven seasons, Central Coast failed to get a single shot away in the opening half but broke the deadlock when Murray raced onto Matthew Millar's pass before sliding the ball past Glen Moss five minutes into the second stanza.
Millar, who will wear Newcastle colours next season, tallied a competition high eighth assist with that effort, and the former South Melbourne man was instrumental in doubling his side's lead.
Weaving and darting his way past three Jets defenders on the right flank, Millar pulled a cross back from the byline which was dispatched cleanly by Karacan.
And the Mariners snatched an unbelievable third when Murray teed up Pain to fire home from the edge of the box three minutes later.
O'Donovan made it six goals in five against his former employers with a poacher's finish from Lachlan Jackson's cross, and Newcastle's hopes were ignited further when Kennedy parried a cross onto the knees of Vargas.
The drama didn't stop there - Newcastle were awarded a stoppage time penalty when Aspropotamitis felled O'Donovan in the box, and the Irishman was twice denied by the Mariners gloveman from the spot.