Central Coast Mariners missed two penalties but scored twice in the space of four second-half minutes to come-from-behind and beat Adelaide United 2-1 in a Thursday night thriller.
In a pulsating top-of-the-table clash, Kusini Yengi’s goal early in the second half had the Reds on track for a seventh straight win and top spot on the A-League ladder.
Yengi’s goal – his third in four matches – came either side of two missed penalties by the home side, with Matt Simon and skipper Oliver Bozanic both denied by stunning saves from 20-year-old Reds keeper Joe Gauci.
But Gauci’s heroics would mean little as the Mariners turned things around in quickfire fashion much to the delight of the home fans.
Bozanic made amends for his earlier penalty miss with a sensational equaliser, before substitute Alou Kuol completed the comeback just minutes later.
The Mariners’ win snaps a three-game winless run and also increases their lead at the top of the ladder to four points.
Adelaide missed the chance to equal a club-record seven straight wins but remain in second spot following one of the craziest games of the season so far.
Gauci denies Simon from the spot
It was Adelaide that arguably made the stronger start but the visitors almost found themselves behind on 17 minutes in somewhat controversial circumstances.
Kye Rowles’ rose highest to win a header at the far post, with the ball striking the arm of Reds winger Craig Goodwin.
After consulting VAR, referee Shaun Evans awarded the Mariners a penalty but Gauci was up to the challenge, denying Matt Simon with an incredible save with his leg.
Elsey clears off the line
It was a 50th A-League match for the Mariners’ Stefan Nigro and the right-back almost marked it with a goal just before half-time.
A dangerous attack down the left ended with a floated cross to the far post, with Nigro looping a header back across goal.
While his effort beat Reds keeper Gauci, Jordan Elsey was back on the line to head the ball away to safety for the visitors.
Yengi with the opener for Reds
The second half was only a few minutes old when Adelaide produced some quality in the front third to take the lead.
Mariners defender Jack Clisby seemed to misjudged a ball over the top, allowing Ben Halloran to race in behind.
Halloran’s cross was perfectly placed for Yengi, whose first time shot squeezed through the gloves of Mark Birighitti and into the net.
Gauci the hero again
Just like in the first half, VAR intervened to award the Mariners a penalty after the referee adjudged Jordan Elsey had handled in the area.
This time it was Mariners skipper Oliver Bozanic who took the responsibility from the spot but again Gauci wouldn’t be beaten.
The youngster dived to his right to parry Bozanic’s tame effort away and preserve Adelaide’s advantage.
Bozanic makes amends with a bullet
Bozanic didn’t let the penalty miss affect him and it was the Mariners skipper who dragged his side level 18 minutes from time.
After starting the move with a driving run from deep inside his own half, Bozanic swooped on a scuffed clearance about 25 metres from goal.
He danced past a couple of defenders before lashing a shot past Gauci with his weaker right foot.
Kuol completes the comeback
The Reds were shellshocked by that equaliser and just a few minutes later found themselves behind through Kuol’s goal.
It was two substitutes who combined as Nisbet chased down a ball that Gauci was favourite to win, with the diminutive Mariners midfielder capitalising on the Reds keeper’s fumble.
Nisbet stayed composed and cut the ball back to Kuol who had the simple task to smash the ball into an open goal.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Central Coast Mariners
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Kick-off: 7.05pm (AEST)
Adelaide United v Western Sydney Wanderers
Saturday, April 10, 2021
Kick-off: 7.10pm (AEST)