Mariners brutally expose Sky Blues
Mariners 7 Sydney FC 2
Seven up ... Central Coast's Daniel McBreen celebrates the first goal of his hat-trick during the Mariners' 7-2 humiliation of Sydney FC at Gosford on Saturday night. Photo: Getty Images
There was no Alessandro Del Piero for Sydney FC but not even his genius could have accounted for the colossal gulf in class that existed at Bluetongue Stadium.
Central Coast might have half the turnover of their city cousins but they have double the talent and perhaps triple the organisation. After scoring first, Sydney were smacked around like never before, having never conceded seven goals in a single game.
The Sky Blues weren't just punished. They were humiliated.
The nightmare ends ... Blake Powell looks dejected at full time. Photo: Getty Images
What a glorious moment of vindication for Graham Arnold, who turned down the chance to manage Sydney in the off-season. Whatever his reasons for staying put, he'll wake up on Sunday knowing he made the right call.
''I made a decision to stay here because I love this club and while we might not have what other clubs have, what we do have is togetherness and a great culture,'' he said post-match. ''It's my job to make the boys play good football.''
That's a modest assessment. This was great football.
Heroes for the Mariners? Take your pick. Start with Daniel McBreen, scorer of his club's first hat-trick. His 35-year-old legs must have felt 10 years younger at full-time.
While some of the 15,686 crowd may have arrived feeling Del Piero's absence meant there was no class No.10, they'd have left feeling very differently. Tom Rogic was tantalising; how will Holger Osieck - who was in the stands - resist calling him up for the Socceroos?
The 19-year-old must be a real candidate to feature either in the friendly against South Korea or next month's East Asian Cup qualifiers.
''I don't think Holger has a tough job if he's going to play with a No.10 because he's the only Australian No.10 in the whole league - everyone else has foreigners,'' Arnold said. ''He's a player for an occasion. You could see in his face when he walked in the dressing room he was thinking, 'This is what I want to play for'.''
Perhaps Osieck took a closer look at Josh Rose, too. He might be 30 but he's the forgotten left-back in international discussions. At this rate, Osieck might have to apologise to Arnold for stealing half his squad.
As for the visitors, they were just lucky this game wasn't at home. They'd have been booed into the car park by their own fans.
Sydney bluffed their way through against Perth Glory last Sunday, snatching three points they did not earn, but at least promised to be better. They even led 1-0 early as Yairu Yau, Del Piero's replacement, finished with a classy chip over Mat Ryan. Even coach Ian Crook must have felt an upset was possible. To borrow from the seasonal parlance, Sydney jumped well from the barriers but were spent by the first turn as the Mariners went for the whip.
On 16 minutes, Rose took the ball deep into Sydney's defence and after repeat efforts, Rogic fired past Ivan Necevski to equalise.
The Mariners then had the lead when Rogic put in a tame effort from distance that Necevski fumbled, allowing McBreen to race in and prise it from the keeper's grasp.
With Necevski beaten, McBreen threw his large frame in the way and effectively forced Sebastian Ryall into giving away an own goal. But the Mariners weren't done yet. Eight minutes before half-time Michael McGlinchey - the cause of a torrid 45 minutes for young Sydney defender Daniel Petkovski - won a penalty after getting the better of Trent McClenahan, and McBreen forcefully converted.
By now the Mariners were firmly in control and Crook's early demeanour had given way as he yanked off Petkovski and the hapless Kruno Lovrek at half-time.
Yau, however, was showing something, and his wonderful scoop over the defence allowed Ali Abbas to race in. The Iraqi matched the incoming pass for skill, volleying home with class. Fleetingly, Sydney had hope, but that was extinguished when McGlinchey's excellent effort curled home after a jinking run.
The Sky Blues had a hand-ball claim turned down but that was as close as they would come as the Mariners piled on more misery. In an unstoppable blitz, another goal to Rogic and a further two to McBreen followed. All goals mixed scything lead-up play with poor defending.
The Mariners fans couldn't wait until full-time to give a standing ovation, so they began in injury time. It was the least their team deserved.