Young Socceroo Dylan Ruiz-Diaz scored a late double to give Central Coast Mariners a memorable 3-2 win over a shell-shocked Melbourne Victory on Monday night.
Victory led 2-1 heading into the final five minutes as Marco Rojas scored a double of his own either side of Dylan Fox’s first Hyundai A-League goal.
But Ruiz-Diaz underlined his undoubted potential with goals in the 85th and 89th minutes to ensure the Mariners ended their 2019/20 campaign with a win.
It was Central Coast’s first win since they also beat Victory 3-2 back on January 12, a span of 204 days and 13 matches without picking up three points.
While the Gosford club have already picked up the wooden spoon for the season, they can at least build on this result heading into 2020/21.
It was another frustrating night for Victory, who set an unwanted club record with their fifth straight Hyundai A-League defeat.
Rojas capitalises on Birighitti’s blunder
Just minutes after Matty Simon almost opened the scoring with a piledriver at one end, Victory took the lead at the other.
Youngster Birkan Kirdar played a teasing ball in behind the Mariners defence for Marco Rojas to pursue, with the Kiwi attacker’s presence forcing keeper Mark Birighitti race out of his box.
Unfortunately for the Mariners gloveman he wasn’t quick enough to clear the ball, with Rojas stealing in, running on and stroking the ball into an empty net.
Simon denied by stunning save
The Mariners skipper has scored more goals against Victory (nine) than any other club and must be thinking how he didn’t add to his tally on the half hour mark.
Jack Clisby’s deflected cross fell perfectly for Simon just 10 yards from goal, with the striker making good contact to get his shot on target.
But Matt Acton showed sensational reflexes to claw Simon’s effort away to safety.
Post denies Mariners an equaliser
In a frantic finish to the first half, the Mariners felt they should have been level.
First Tommy Oar’s attempted centre appeared to hit the arm of Leigh Broxham, but debutant referee Tim Danaskos waved away the penalty appeals.
But the loose ball fell to Sam Silvera who cleverly diverted a shot at goal but the ball hit the post and went back across the face of goal where Victory were able to clear.
Milestone goal for Fox
It took just a couple of minutes after the restart for the Mariners to draw level…and it came from an unlikely source.
Playing in his 50th Hyundai A-League match, defender Dylan Fox netted his first goal after Milan Duric’s looping free-kick fell nicely to him inside the box.
Fox showed great awareness to turn and poke the ball towards goal, going through the legs of a defender and the keeper to just cross the line for a goal.
Rojas bags his brace
He’s known as the ‘Kiwi Messi’ and Rojas showed just why with his second goal midway through the second half.
In a slick counter attack, Rojas picked up the ball just inside the Mariners half and raced down the left wing.
He cut inside of Dylan Fox as he drove into the box before firing beautifully into the far corner.
Ruiz-Diaz with a peach
The Mariners needed something special to get back into the contest and their talented teenager provided it.
Oar, in his last match before joining Macarthur next season, turned on a nice pass from Fox before spotting the run of Ruiz-Diaz and playing him in.
And the Young Socceroo did the rest, smashing an unstoppable shot past the Victory keeper for his first Hyundai A-League goal.
The youngster does it again
Ruiz-Diaz showed why he is so highly rated with the winner in the dying minutes.
Running onto a through ball from Milan Duric, the 19-year-old took the ball past Giancarlo Gallifuoco to race clear before slotting past a stranded Acton.