Super sub’s STUNNER fires Central Coast back to the top of the league after Western win

Western United FC v Central Coast Mariners - Extended Highlights | Isuzu UTE A-League 2023-24 | Round 24

A devastating strike from Central Coast winger Christian Theoharous has helped the Mariners return to the Isuzu UTE A-League summit after they defeated Western United 2-0 in Tarneit.

Having scored his first ever Isuzu UTE A-League goal in Round 23 Max Balard came up with the goods once again as he opened the scoring in the 51st minute after what was a scrappy first half in Tarneit.

Both sides were then guilty of wasting several good chances before substitute Theoharous put the game to bed in the 80th minute, drilling a stunning shot beyond Thomas Heward-Belle to secure the three points.

The result sees Mark Jackson’s Mariners return to the top of the Isuzu UTE A-League ladder for the second week in a row, sat level on points with Wellington Phoenix but above the New Zealanders by virtue of having more wins to their name.

“I’d like to add more goals, obviously,” said Theoharous after the game when speaking to Paramount+. “The Gaffer gives us certain structures and certain rules to abide by and that just gives us freedom in the front third to do what we can do.

“He gives us belief and he trusts in us and you can’t ask for more really. We went in at half time not with the best performance but we had a look at ourselves, had a few words.

“Obviously we’ve got a lot at stake right now. The boys have done brilliantly all season and he (Jackson) just said turn it up 10-15% and that’s what we did.

He added: “There’s nothing more you want to do than play for trophies really. Credit to the lads today, turning it around in the second half and again, believing in our structures and the way we play.

“Vuka always says ‘make sure if we lose or win we play our way’ and that’s what we did in the second half and obviously (it) got us the result.”

Chances were few and far between in the first half as Mariners forward Angel Torres couldn’t connect with Jing Reec’s flick on inside the box while keeper Danny Vukovic was then called in to action on the approach to half time, diving down low to palm away Angus Thurgate’s dangerous ball across the face of goal.

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The deadlock was eventually broken in the 51st minute of the game and it was Mariners midfielder Balard who produced the clinical finish to make it 1-0.

A sloppy pass from Western midfielder Sebastian Pasquali was intercepted on the edge of the box by Nisbet, who then drove into the area and cut the ball back for the arriving Balard to side foot home.

Balard was then involved just minutes later, this time at the other end, as a clearance ricocheted back off Riku Danzaki and into his arm however the VAR cleared the incident deeming it not to be penalty.

Angel Torres then wasted a glorious chance to make it 2-0 to the away side as he blazed his effort wide of the target after connecting with a Storm Roux cross at the back post.

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The home side were then left kicking themselves in the 67th minute as winger Lachie Wales curled a glorious ball across the Mariners box and into the path of Danzaki, however the Japanese creator’s connection was poor and the shot bobbled harmlessly past the far post.

Torres was then guilty of wasting another opportunity, this time in the 74th minute, as the ball went through the legs of Western defender Khoder Kaddour and straight to Torres, however the Colombian smashed his close range effort against the crossbar.

Mark Jackson’s Mariners did eventually ice the game though and it came from the boot of substitute Theoharous in the 80th minute.

Drifting off the back of his marker, Theoharous collected the ball midway inside the Western half and promptly ran at the opposition defence, jinking left and right before cutting the ball on to his left foot and unleashing a stunning drive beyond Thomas Heward-Belle to make it 2-0.

Western twice went close in second half stoppage time but Vukovic maintained his clean sheet as the Mariners walked away with a vital three points ahead of their midweek trip to Kyrgyzstan.