Sunday, 22 December 2013 9:48 PM
Six years ago today, a packed Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford witnessed an all-time classic encounter.
December 22, 2007. It is a date that will live long in the memory of football fans in Australia, and not just those of the Central Coast or Sydney FC persuasion.
It was a Round 15 match, due to be held on Saturday December 1. But, Bluetongue Stadium was waterlogged, leaving the fans and players high and definitely not dry.
The match was rescheduled to December 22 and those that were there are privileged to have witnessed one of the greatest matches in Australian football history.
It was a nine goal thriller and an early Christmas present for the fans and a real boost to the Hyundai A-League, then in just its third season.
John Aloisi and Tony Popovic were both in the twilights of their wonderful playing careers and they went head to head as 17,514 crammed into Bluetongue Stadium.
The home side thought they had the match wrapped up when they raced to a 2-0 lead inside a quarter of an hour.
Central Coast had a free kick 25 yards out in the third minute, after a foul by Sydney FC midfielder Mark Robertson.
The ball was laid off to Mile Jedinak and his shot flew past Sydney FC’s ‘keeper, Ivan Necevski, with the aid of a slight deflection.
Mariners fans went into rapture when they doubled their lead through Aloisi.
The Australian legend showed the instincts that he was renowned for, nipping in at the near post to steer a finish past Necevski.
Of course, Aloisi joined Sydney FC at the end of that season and after a trying first campaign, he helped Sydney FC to win the Premiership and Championship, before departing to Melbourne Heart, where he finished his stellar career.
The game took a twist when Mariners keeper Danny Vukovic was sent off shortly after Aloisi’s goal. Matthew Trott was his replacement; this match was one of his six appearances for the Mariners.
Sydney FC found a lifeline when Iain Fyfe headed in a Ufuk Talay corner in the 33rd minute and the score remained 2-1 heading into the break.
There was a sense that something special was afoot when a rare occurrence levelled the game – a goal for Terry McFlynn.
Trott could only parry Tony Popovic’s header and McFlynn was on hand to bundle home the rebound and draw the Sky Blues level at 2-2. It was his second of just seven goals for Sydney FC.
With the scores level at 2-2 after 50 minutes, anything could happen. Everything did.
In the 63rd minute, Popovic gave away a penalty that was dispatched with calm authority by Greg Owens, to put his side 3-2 up.
Sydney FC coach John Kosmina sent on Adam Biddle on the right hand side, and Brendon Santalab up front.
Biddle immediately left his mark on the match, scoring in the 71st minute. Racing clear down the right, Biddle nutmegged Dean Heffernan and with Michael Bridges unmarked in the middle, decided to shoot instead, through the legs of Trott.
Five minutes later, Santalab completed a remarkable turnaround, at least for the time being. Turning as the ball dropped over his shoulder, Santalab lashed a delicious volley into the top corner.
76 minutes had been played, seven goals had been scored and finally Sydney FC had the lead.
It was drama enough for one night, but there was still time for a hero to become the villain and the final, frenetic ten minutes of this match set it on its way to folklore.
In the 86th minute a free kick was lumped into the area by Tony Vidmar and when it broke into space, Adam Kwasnik was unmarked. Kwasnik slotted through the legs of Necevski to draw the Mariners level at 4-4.
Having blown a two goal lead and then having gone 3-4 down, the Mariners thought they were out of jail.
The sting in the tail was magnificent in its timing and its drama.
Santalab’s header towards goal in the 95th minute hit the outstretched arm of Kwasnik and referee Matthew Breeze awarded a penalty and sent off Kwasnik.
Talay’s two step run up proved decisive as he despatched the penalty into the top right corner and ran towards the traveling Cove.
The full time whistle was blown before he even made it the corner flag, and an A-League classic was born.
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