13/04/2024

Mariners captain Oliver Bozanic fighting for the ball against Sydney FC's Rhyan Grant. (Image: Izhar Khan)

The Central Coast Mariners saw off a lackluster Sydney at Kogarah to reach their first ever FFA Cup final. Where did it go wrong for Sydney?

The Central Coast Mariners saw off a lackluster Sydney at Kogarah to reach their first ever FFA Cup final. Where did it go wrong for Sydney?

It was the battle of the polar opposite circumstances. Sydney FC being worked to the extreme, playing their third game in seven days. The Mariners meanwhile made their first appearance since December 21, due to constant COVID-19 disruption.

The match was punctuated by two dynamic duos: Elvis Kamsoba and Trent Buhagiar for Sydney FC along with Marco Urena and Moresche for the Mariners.

Both sides felt the impacts of their unique situation in the first half, which was open, yet scoreless despite the efforts of both sides.

Sydney got in some strong positions but some heavy touches and slow movement prevented them from capitalising. The Mariners also created some good opportunities, but the lack of game time played a part in their inability to finish off their strong work.

Kamsoba, the difference maker in the quarter final tie against Brisbane, continued silencing his doubters, being central to all the positive play created by Sydney FC. Despite encouraging combination play between Kamsoba and Buhagiar, Sydney FC ended the first half without testing Mariners’ goalkeeper Mark Birighitti.

Birighitti continued the second half as he started the first, getting a touch on Buhagiar’s shot to force a corner. Buhagiar’s speed got him to good positions throughout the evening, but his final product let him down as Sydney FC went scoreless.

The absence of Luke Brattan remains a problem for Sydney FC, which combined with tired legs, felt slow in possession. The Sky Blues were unable to produce the high quality chances we have become accustomed to throughout the years.

It is not clear where Sydney FC’s midfield saviour will come from. The club has signed Socceroo Mustafa Amini on a six month contract, but it is not that simple.

Amini has not played regular football for a long time, and he will need to build up his fitness and find his touch again. That is not something you can realistically do in such a short space of time.

Patrick Yazbek has done a fantastic job in his first month of regular first team football but some of the senior players need to step up.

Kamsoba was the only player in a sky blue top to cause the Mariners any concern. Senior players like Anthony Caceres, Max Burgess and Milos Ninkovic will have to pick up the creative burden if Sydney FC is to rediscover the form that has made it such a formidable side throughout the years.

Josh Nisbett taking on Anthony Caceres and Joel King. (Image: Izhar Khan)

It was a different story for the Mariners, who returned to action for the first time in just under a month, full of energy. That was evident after half time, and despite a bright start by Sydney FC, the Mariners eventually got a hold of the midfield.

Andrew Redmayne’s brilliance was the only thing standing in the way of the Mariners and a maiden FFA Cup final appearance with several strong stops, including a double save, to keep out Moresche.

The game’s main talking point came when a strong move by Lewis Miller got him past Sydney left back Joel King, who proceeded to commit a foul near the penalty box line. Referee Alex King viewed it as a foul inside the box and awarded the Mariners a penalty.

Urena went straight through he middle, nutmegging Redmayne who was unable to keep his heroics going.

Sydney FC’s creativity issues became even more evident a goal down. The side was unable to give Birighitti any substantial worries for the 10 minutes remaining in the match up.

The Mariners will surely celebrate a maiden FFA Cup Final appearance, but Sydney FC will return to the drawing board.

You can put the loss down to three games in a week or a controversial penalty, but Sydney has a creative problem in the midfield. Currently, the only time it looks remotely dangerous is when Kamsoba is on the ball, a situation which would have been unheard of a few months ago.

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