Match Report: Western United 2-2 Central Coast Mariners – Late drama in draw

Jamie Young Western United

Western United and Central Coast Mariners played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Mars Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Mariners took the lead through a fortuitous goal from Jason Cummings not long before the half-time interval after United had a couple of big chances earlier on.

The Green and Black drew level almost immediately after the restart through an own goal before Aleksandar Prijovic put United in the lead.

That lead lasted only a minute though as Cummings struck again to equalise, and Jamie Young pulled off a fine penalty save in the dying stages to ensure both sides took a point away from the game.

Team News

The headline team news for Western United was that Nikolai Topor-Stanley started at centre-back, making his 359th appearance in the A-League Men to take him clear of Andrew Durante as the A-Leagues’ all-time leading appearance maker.

Neil Kilkenny came back into the side in midfield while Rene Krhin was a late out meaning Dylan Pierias returned to the starting XI.

First Half

The opening exchanges were fast-paced and end-to-end, with Prijovic having a glorious chance to score inside the opening few minutes. The Serbian was in place to strike a Connor Pain cutback, but his effort was blocked just before it could fly into the net.

A pair of corners following that kept the pressure on, and Topor-Stanley very nearly scored a memorable goal in his milestone match.

United was having a lot of joy getting in behind down the wings and bringing the ball back into the box, either fashioning chances out of it or winning set pieces, from which the Green and Black was very threatening.

Lachie Wales had a big chance from one such opportunity but Mark Birighitti made a strong save high to his right to deny the Central Coast native a goal against his former side.

Central Coast made good on their chance from a set piece in the 36th minute when Cummings converted from close range. The ball rather seemed to hit him unknowingly as it went over Jamie Young, and a VAR check for a handball allowed the goal to stand.

Second Half

Western United needed a quick equaliser in the second half and that was exactly what it got, with the ball ending up in the Central Coast net barely a minute after the restart.

Kilkenny whipped in a delightful cross from a wide free-kick on the left hand side, and the ball flicked up off Noah Smith’s head and into the net for an own goal to the Mariners midfielder.

United held much of the position in the early portion of the second half and Leo Lacroix had a massive chance to put the Green and Black in front, with a free header from a corner bouncing just wide.

The lead was not too far away though, as Prijovic rose to score with his head for the second week in a row, owing to some outstanding work from Wales.

United’s No.8 held off two Mariners defenders to receive the ball from a corner, turn and send a delightful cross into Prijovic who delicately headed past Birighitti and into the bottom corner just after the hour mark.

But the lead lasted barely a minute as Central Coast went straight up the other end and equalised through Cummings, who finished expertly on his left foot from just inside the penalty area.

The remaining 20-odd minutes went by largely without any action until Central Coast earned a controversial late penalty after a VAR review.

Cummings stepped up to get his hat trick, but Young was equal to it with an excellent diving save to his left-hand side.

That proved to be the pivotal late moment as United held on for a point in a topsy turvy game in which either side could easily have found a winner.