Le Fondre denies Mariners as Sydney FC salvage undesirable point
Adam Le Fondre's second-half penalty spared Sydney FC from a second successive defeat and forced a battling Central Coast Mariners to settle for a 1-1 draw at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.
Golden Boot leader Le Fondre tucked away a 76th-minute spot-kick following Jem Karacan's foul on Alex Brosque to cancel out Aiden O'Neill's earlier opener against the run of play.
The English striker's intervention prevented the Mariners from celebrating what would have been their second victory of the campaign but did little to lift the home side's mood as they failed to make sustained pressure pay in squandering an opportunity to leapfrog second-placed Melbourne Victory.
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Central Coast were forced into an early alteration when Tommy Oar limped off due to a reported hyperextension of his knee in an awkward landing.
Milos Ninkovic almost rubbed salt into the wound in the 20th minute, guiding one effort into the upright and then stroking the follow-up wide of the other post.
Ben Kennedy was required to make a series of smart saves before the Mariners landed a sucker punch through O'Neill, the midfielder making no mistake with a measured finish after a corner reached him on the edge of the area.
The visitors defended resolutely until ex-Premier League player Karacan bundled over substitute Brosque in the box, enabling his former Reading team-mate to convert his 13th goal of the campaign.
That set up a grandstand finish and Le Fondre should have made it a quickfire double, but he miscued a presentable rebound following Kennedy's initial save from Brosque.
Central Coast's experienced shot-stopper then crucially stuck out a boot to deny playmaker Ninkovic at close range as the cellar-dwellers withstood a wave of late pressure to end their four-match losing streak.
Steve Corica's side, meanwhile, remain a point behind rivals Victory and 10 adrift of table-toppers Perth Glory, having now won just one of their past four fixtures.
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