After Friday night's first v second game, Saturday provided third v fourth with Central Coast Mariners hosting Melbourne Victory at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford. Despite going behind early, the Victory stormed back with three goals in seventeen minutes to defeat the Mariners 3-1 and pull level on points. Central Coast still have a game in hand, and a better goal difference thanks to Melbourne's disastrous January.
Bernie Ibini scored his first goal since returning to the Mariners on loan, rebounding after Josh Rose's shot was saved by Nathan Coe in the 11th minute. That early lead held until first half injury time when James Troisi scored the first of his two goals. Liam Reddy knocked a Gui Finkler free kick off the post but poor defending left Troisi with a free poke in for the equalizer. The Victory took the lead after just five second half minutes when Archie Thompson took advantage of Adama Traore's skill on the outside.
Central Coast were upset and left wondering when Mile Sterjovski, who this week announced his retirement at the end of the season, was pulled down by repeat offender Pablo Contreras. The referee awarded a free kick just outside the box instead of a penalty and new boy Eddy Bosnar's resulting set piece was saved by Coe. Ten minutes later the Victory put the game away when Tom Rogic gave Troisi a perfect pass and a second goal. The 3-1 margin remained, helping lift Melbourne after a poor run of form and multiple heavy defeats.
The Victory now take a week off from the A-League to focus on qualifying for the group stage of the Champions League. With a game coming on February 15 in Geelong against Thai Premier League side Muangthong United, Kevin Muscat's team will get a chance to join the Mariners and Western Sydney Wanderers in Asia's top competition. The Victory don't play again in the league until Saturday February 22 in hosting Adelaide United at AAMI Park. Central Coast will travel to Adelaide on Friday February 14 for its next game and a chance to again put distance between themselves and the Victory for third place.
CCM Ibini 11'
MVC Troisi 45+'
MVC Thompson (Traore) 50'
MVC Troisi (Rogic) 62'
Central Coast Mariners: Reddy; Rose, Bosnar (Seip 77'), Anderson, Roux; Hutchinson, Caceras; Fitzgerald, Sterjovski (Cernak 65'), Ibini (Duke 72'); Simon
Unused substitutes: Pasfield
Melbourne Victory: Coe; Traore, Contreras, Ansell, Galloway (Leijer 92'); Mahazi (Milligan 71'), Broxham; Troisi, Finkler, Thompson; Rogic (Jeggo 80')
Unused substitutes: Coulter, Nabbout