City continued its preparations for the 2022/23 A-League Men’s season with a friendly against Central Coast Mariners at Valentine Sports Park on Saturday morning.
Jamie Maclaren struck early to give City the lead but an equaliser just before the half hour mark and then a second to the hosts just before half time gave it the lead after 45 minutes.
The teams traded attacks in the second half but ultimately the Mariners came away 4-2 winners.
There were plenty of talking points to come out of Patrick Kisnorbo’s line-up on Saturday morning, with the headline being Aiden O’Neill returning for his first competitive match since suffering a fractured metatarsal back in April.
New signings Valon Berisha and Thomas Lam were both named in the starting XI, but an unfortunate slight knock in training late in the week saw Richard van der Venne sidelined.
Scott Galloway (ankle) and Florin Berenguer (hamstring) also missed the hit out through injury.
Starting XI: 1. Tom GLOVER (GK), 25. Callum TALBOT, 4. Nuno REIS, 6. Thomas LAM, 3. Scott JAMIESON (C), 13. Aiden O’NEILL, 14. Valon BERISHA, 7. Mathew LECKIE, 15. Andrew NABBOUT, 9. Jamie MACLAREN.
Substitutes: 33. Matthew SUTTON (GK), 16. Taras GOMULKA, 18. Jordon HALL, 22. Curtis GOOD, 30. Luke ORESTI, 38. Jordan BOS.
City couldn’t have gotten off to a better start, with Jamie Maclaren finding the opener in just the third minute.
Following a nice run down the right wing, Maclaren spotted the keeper off his line and was able to dink his shot into the back of the net from outside the box.
Less than ten minutes later, our number nine almost had his second in similar fashion, this time from inside the box but the keeper was able to just tip it over the bar.
The pressure continued to pile on with Mathew Leckie going close from the resulting corner, the City winger meeting the cross with a venomous header which was well saved.
City controlled the possession as the Valon Berisha and Andrew Nabbout combination looked dangerous on the right-hand side.
Central Coast were able to get back into the game after a shaky start, holding possession more comfortably after the first 20 minutes.
The hosts were right back into the game in the 27th minute when Dor Jok found the equaliser, not long before Jordan Bos replaced Marco Tilio as Kisnorbo opted for a different look.
An even final 15 minutes to the half saw the teams set to enter the break level, but a late slip up at the back for City allowed Samuel Silvera to give the Mariners the lead on the stroke of half time.
New signings Berisha and Lam both made way for the second half after getting a valuable 45 minutes into their legs as Taras Gomulka and Curtis Good replaced them, while Matthew Sutton was in between the sticks for the second half.
Nuno Reis was sound in defence early in the second stanza, coming up with a couple of important interventions to stop goal-scoring chances.
City ramped up the pressure following the first 10 minutes, with three great chances coming in the space of of six minutes.
A Scott Jamieson set piece found the head of O’Neill in the box, who forced a scramble from the Mariners keeper who was only just able to keep the effort of the line.
Leckie was then through on goal not long after and brought down from behind in the box, but the referee waved away the loud penalty shouts.
The City winger quickly bounced up, playing through Maclaren on goal two minutes later but the striker was millimetres away from his second, his shot across the keeper hitting the post but staying out.
Tilio would return to the pitch for the final 30 minutes, replacing O’Neill with regular substitution rules not being enforced in pre-season.
There was plenty of action as the clock ticked into the final 15 minutes, Central Coast first finding their third via the underside of the crossbar, before City hit back from kick-off.
The recently re-introduced Tilio received from the restart and went on a strong run down the left, finishing with a well-placed cutback across goal which Nabbout met to tap home.
Central Coast once again found the back of the net in the final minutes of the half, before the final whistle sounded with the scoreline reading 4-2.
City are now less than three weeks away from opening the season with a Grand Final re-match against Western United. Click here to get your tickets, or even better, sign up as a City member to ensure you never miss a moment this season!