WATCH: Sydney FC advance after shootout victory
Despite a last-gasp Mariners equaliser from Jason Cummings, Sydney FC are through to the Round of 16 of the Australia Cup, after beating the Central Coast Mariners 3-1 in a penalty shootout.
Sydney FC – (3) 3 (Adam LE FONDRE 29', Anthony CACERES 42', Max BURGESS 50’)
Central Coast Mariners – (1) 3 (Beni N'KOLOLO 14', Michael RUHS 53', Jason CUMMINGS 90+5')
It was a cagey opening at Leichhardt Oval as the two A-League Men sides faced on in the Round of 32 fixture.
The Mariners began to step up their pressure with ten minutes gone and they were rewarded for their efforts when Thomas Aquilina found Béni N'Kololo on the right and the Frenchman made no mistake dodging the tackles to slot the ball into the bottom left corner of the net.
But the Mariners' lead did not last long as Sydney FC’s Max Burgess won a penalty after being brought down by Daniel Hall while baring down on goal. Despite slipping as he hit the ball, Adam Le Fondre cooly placed the ball into the bottom right corner to level the score on the half-hour mark.
Sydney FC then found a 2-1 lead through Anthony Cáceres, who outmuscled his defender and smashed the ball into the roof of the net after bursting into the six-yard box from Adrian Segecic’s switch ball.
Despite taking an early lead, Central Coast crumbled at the start of the second half as they went another goal behind. This time it was Burgess who found the back of the net with his chest after Segecic’s cross.
Just when the game seemed to be sliding away from the Mariners, they found themselves back in the hunt through Michael Ruhs. The 19-year-old scored his first competitive goal for the Central Coast after tapping in Paul Ayongo’s spilt shot from Andrew Redmayne to hand his side a much-needed goal.
The Mariners' quest for an equaliser got even harder with 25 minutes remaining as Hall received a second yellow for tugging the shirt of Le Fondre and bringing him down.
Just when Sydney FC thought they had done enough to progress to the Round of 16, Cummings popped up to head in an equaliser in stoppage time and send the tie to extra-time.
After finishing extra time with the scores still locked at 3-3, Redmayne was as cool as a cucumber in goal, enhancing his reputation from the World Cup Qualifier, as one of the best penalty stoppers in the country.
The Socceroos goalkeeper saved Cummings penalty and while Sydney’s first penalty by Le Fondre was saved by Yaren Sozer, Central Coast missed two penalties to hand Sydney FC a clear run at claiming the victory.
Rhyan Grant and Jaiden Kucharski both converted their spot kicks before Connor O'Toole found the inner left side of the goal to confirm the Sky Blues would advance to the Australia Cup Round of 16.