CENTRAL Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold has apologised for his send-off over comments directed at match officials during his side's 1-1 A-League draw with Melbourne Victory in Launceston on Saturday.
Arnold admitted the frustration of watching his side torn apart by the Victory in the first half caused him to say something to which the fourth official, linesman and referee Jarred Gillett, took offence.
After conferring with his other officials, Gillett marched Arnold from the Aurora Stadium sideline just before half-time, not long after Victory had taken a 1-0 lead.
''I apologise - it was mainly down to frustration at our poor performance in the first half,'' Arnold said, refusing to divulge details of the offending comment. ''It was the first time in 2½ years I've had to go off my head at half-time [at his players]. I said something [to the officials] I shouldn't have said and I'll cop whatever.''
As well as a $1000 team fine for a red card - standard practice at the Mariners - Arnold is also likely to face some form of A-League disciplinary action.
But far more productive was Arnold's half-time spray to his below-par competition leaders.
They responded by cancelling out Marcos Flores' first-half goal with a Daniel McBreen penalty 13 minutes from time in a much-improved second half.
Victory was left rueing its wastefulness in front of goal after shredding the Mariners in a superb first 45 minutes. Coach Ange Postecoglou felt his side should have had all three points wrapped up by half-time, but remained positive Victory was progressing.
''We were outstanding in the first half and probably didn't finish it off as we should have,'' he said. ''But this team's still evolving and maybe we're lacking a bit of self-belief as a group as to how good we could be.''
After a week in which various Mariners players have been linked with being sold abroad, the team spent the first half looking exactly like a shop window - full of mannequins, many without heads.
Victory's cut and thrust pinned the Mariners deep in their territory and Flores deservedly put the Victory ahead just before the break.
Before the goal from Flores, Marco Rojas shaved the post with a poorly taken penalty, which should have given Melbourne an early lead, and Archie Thompson missed from in front when it would have been easier to score.
Arnold praised his side's character-filled second-half fightback, pushing for an equaliser after shaking off Victory's hugely effective pressing game in midfield.
Both goalkeepers made extraordinary saves midway through the second half - Victory's Nathan Coe first pulling off a reflex save to deny Michael McGlinchey on 63 minutes.
Then, two minutes later, Central Coast's Mat Ryan twice stopped Rojas - the second time twisting mid-air to turn out the New Zealander's audacious chip.
The Mariners eventually found a lifeline when Victory skipper Adrian Leijer clumsily bundled over McGlinchey, with McBreen slotting home the spot-kick.
The Mariners now hold a two-point advantage atop the table, with Victory third.
|Central Coast Mariners||16||10||4||2||26||11||15||34|
|*Western Sydney Wanderers||15||7||2||6||17||13||4||23|
* - denotes teams yet to play