Welcome to the A-League, where the rounds go backwards like CCM’s slide since the Arnie era. The hump day Round 12 fixture to kick off Round 14 (huh?) saw CCM do the deconstructing of the Melbourne City hipsters, breaking a 327-day winless drought to win 2-1.
City continued to field De Laet as striker, with Wales starting on the bench. Vidošić was a no-go with his persistent hip injury, whilst Birighitti’s absence (despite reportedly injuring himself minutes before kick off last round) had tongues wagging due to the open January transfer window. Central Coast continued their suspension in-out merry-go-round, with Rowles unavailable following his send-off last match, but O’Neill coming back following his one-match ban.
CCM started out hot, as they have done over the past few weeks. Simon was an early chance just 4 minutes in following an Oar cross, but his header missed to the right of the post with a margin as tight as trying to squeeze your hand into a pringle can to get the last few crumbs. City attempted to fight back in the 12th, with Brattan’s shot soaring over the cross-bar; which would become the story of most of City’s attempts for the remainder of the half.
Malik’s night ended early as he copped one hell of a corky to the buttocks, and with blood rushing to his nether regions, an early sub was needed in the 22nd.. Joyce opted to bring on Wales, pushing De Laet to right wing to show us he has more positions than a Kama Sutra handbook.
Then Central Coast did what we were all willing them on to do- they scored. Pain found the back of the net in the 32nd off a Millar assist. But like the build up of when you have 2x $10,000 panels uncovered on your instant scratchie, and you know you just need a third, you felt that you had to supress your excitement a little as it’s still early days and this is still the CCM. Feeling the pressure of going down to CCM, De Laet found the need to go down in the box in the 40th but was only rewarded with a yellow for simulation. Griffiths had the chance to find the leveller in the 45+3, however his header lacked power giving Kennedy enough time to make the save.
The second half saw the continuation of some end-to-end football with CCM desperate to notch their first season win, whilst City didn’t want to become the first team to lose to both cellar dwellers CCM and Roar. Murray had a huge chance to double the Mariner’s lead in the 61st, as he had Galekovic beat, but the tight angle saw the ball run out of play. To the other end in the 65th and Griffith’s long-range shot was saved by Kennedy again. The 69th saw what seemed like a sure-thing goal from Pain, however his shot was desperately saved by Galekovic on the line. Murray again had the chance to give CCM that one goal buffer that they so sorely needed in the 72nd as he received a great release from the midfield and went for a run, but disappointingly his shot went just wide of the right post.
It was in the 77th that the all too familiar feeling of CCM sauce-bottling it set in as former CCM player Wales found the equaliser. Wale’s was poorly marked during a corner set-piece, allowing his header to easily float across the line.
As it looked like the 1-1 draw might play out, Griffiths made the poor decision to make contact via a push in the back to Simon in the box in the 87th to concede a penalty. Up steps Masterfood’s Mastermind Simon hoping for his 50th A-League goal. Knowing CCM’s luck you could just feel that he was going to miss, with Galekovic saving Simon’s initial attempt.
However, the Wizard of Woy Woy was able to make amends on the rebound. City had a final ditch effort in the 92nd, but the safe hands of Kennedy again denied Berenguer’s header.
As the final whistle sounded, Round 12 CCM could tell down-in-the-dumps Round 14 CCM that is does get better. To be fair, this is what the Mariners had been pressing to do for weeks, before succumbing to self-sabotage. But with Cissé safely locked away in club-ordered exile, and the opponents being City (who have now contributed to 80% of CCM’s points this season), it was happening. Absolute scenes ensued with fans hugging in the crowd, as the plans for the rest of the night were obvious: Blast Horses. Burn the banner. Cancel the airing of the next latest Netflix doco- Mariners ‘Til I Die…. Because the drought is over.
By Hayley Leedham