Goals from Bradley Porter, Sasho Petrovski and Nik Mrdja secured the Mariners their breakthrough victory of season four, one that was underscored by the appearance of triallist and Qantas Socceroo icon Mark Bosnich in between the sticks for the home side.
The Bluetongue Stadium gallery of 7,107 were simply dazzled by the unquestioned star of the show, whose barely fathomable 80 minute performance was an amazing flashback to the glory days of a player that was once the poster boy of Australian football.
Not least of which, Bosnich stopped a 71st minute penalty from Sydney captain Steve Corica on the back of several telling stops for the highlights reels, before making way for regular Mariners custodian Danny Vukovic with ten minutes to play.
Equally, there were highlights at the opposite end of the pitch, where the Mariners looked as classy and composed as they have done this campaign.
Importantly, the three points gained leaves the Mariners in the hunt to secure their third Pre-Season Cup final berth, following the Queensland Roar?s 1-1 draw with the Wellington Phoenix in today?s other Group B fixture.
“Credit to everyone out there today, I think we put together a good makeshift team as we had about seven boys missing, but as we?ve always said, it doesn?t matter what eleven we put on the field, we feel as though we can win the game,” said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna after the match.
“Mark pulled off a couple of good saves and we had a couple of good finishes and everyone has pulled up alright ? Andrew Clark is suspended for next week but we?ll have Andre Gumprecht and Dean Heffernan fully fit, plus Nigel Boogaard back.”
While all eyes were on Bosnich, Central Coast product Porter soon shifted the focus when capping off his stellar pre-season form with a vintage strike just prior to the break.
Porter was put through on goal by fellow goal scorer Petrovski and made no mistake with a sweetly taken right footed strike that cannoned in off the far post ? Porter?s first goal for the Mariners in a competitive fixture.
Petrovski doubled the Mariners? advantage after the break after finishing with aplomb from a similar position to Porter?s strike ? the Mariners? season three Golden Boot winner netting his landmark tenth goal for the Mariners and seventh in the history of the Pre-Season Cup with all clubs.
It was during this period that the Mariners oozed a distinction that had been lacking on occasion at Wellington?s Westpac Stadium last Sunday.
Debutant Ahmad Elrich was electric on the right wing and a constant threat to the Sydney backline, while left sided counterpart Adrian Caceres was at his creative and industrious best when roaming forward.
Qantas Socceroo Mrdja emerged from the substitutes bench with a half hour still to play ? his longest contribution of the pre-season to date ? and five minutes later marked his comeback from long-term injury with a clinical finish from the penalty spot.
Mrdja won the penalty after being challenged unfairly by Sydney FC defender Iain Fyfe and showed the composure required to extend the Mariners? advantage to three.
Minutes later, Corica was presented with an identical chance against his former Qantas Socceroos team-mate Bosnich, but there was to be no denying the standout performer of this memorable derby.
Bosnich make a committed dive to his left to parry Corica?s effort away from goal, with the follow up from a Sydney FC attacker ballooning over the crossbar.
“One swallow doesn?t make the summer and there?s still a long way to go,” said Bosnich after the match.
“If today went another way, I would still say the same thing, it was a really good start, the most important thing is that the team won.
“It was a pleasure to play and I?m very thankful to everybody.”
The Mariners? 2008 Pre-Season Cup campaign continues at Brisbane?s Perry Park against the Queensland Roar next Sunday, 3 August. Kick off is at 3pm.
The Mariners? next scheduled fixture at their Bluetongue Stadium home is against Sydney FC for their opening home match of the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season on Saturday, 23 August. Kick off is at 7pm.
Tickets for this fixture will go on sale through Ticketek in early August.
Mariners Memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season are now on sale at www.ccmariners.com.au.
Central Coast Mariners 40. Mark Bosnich (gk) (20. Danny Vukovic (gk) 81?), 5. Bradley Porter, 7. John Hutchinson, 10. Adrian Caceres, 11. Dylan Macallister, 15. Andrew Clark, 18. Alex Wilkinson, 21. Ahmad Elrich (17. Matthew Osman 78?), 22. Sasho Petrovski (9. Nik Mrdja 63?), 24. David D?Apuzzo, 26. Predrag Bojic
Unused Subs 2. Andre Gumprecht
Yellow Cards D?Apuzzo 32?, Clark 35?, Petrovski 56?, Porter 70?
Red Cards None
Goals Porter 43?, Petrovski 61?, Mrdja 68?P
Sydney FC 1. Clint Bolton (gk), 2. Iain Fyfe, 3. Nikolas Tsattalios (18. Adam Casey 46?), 4. Simon Colosimo, 5. Mitchell Prentice, 7. Robbie Middleby (21. Adam Biddle 75?), 10. Steve Corica (16. Chris Payne 75?), 14. Alex Brosque, 15. Terry McFlynn, 17. Jacob Timpano, 26. Dez Giraldi
Unused Subs 20. Ivan Necevski (gk)
Yellow Cards Corica 49?, Brosque 63?, Fyfe 68?, Colosimo 74?, Payne 78?, Giraldi 86?
Red Cards None
Referee Chris Beath