Late goal to 17yo rising star bails out Mariners in AFC Cup stalemate with Terengganu

Central Coast Mariners teenager Miguel Di Pizio’s first goal in senior competitive football rescued a point for the Isuzu UTE A-League champions in a 1-1 draw with Terengganu FC in the AFC Cup.

The Mariners could have secured a spot in the AFC Cup knockouts with a win at Industree Group Stadium but failed to clinch three points on a frustrating night in Gosford; a goal against the run of play from Engku Nur Shakir put the Malaysian side ahead in the second half before Di Pizio’s 87th-minute equaliser ensured points were shared.

The Mariners retain top spot in Group G, and will travel to the Philippines to take on Stallion Laguna FC on the final day of the group stage on Wednesday, December 13.

The Mariners came close to the opening goal with just one minute on the clock when a mistake at the back opened the door for Alou Kuol to strike from close range. His shot was saved into the path of Will Wilson who skied his attempt over the crossbar on the rebound on Wednesday.

Marco Tulio was dangerous through the first half, and his free kick off the left wing which evaded a number of heads called Terengganu keeper Mohd Suhaimi into a diving save.

The Mariners were making all the early running but the visitors weren’t without chances of their own; Ivan Mamut blasted over the bar from distance and Danny Vukovic made a strong save to ensure the home side kept their sheet clean in the first half.

A strong reaction save from Suhaimi deprived Tulio a sensational solo goal in the 38th minute; the Brazilian took two Terengganu markers out of the play with an inventive flick over his head in the penalty area, and attempted to rocket a strike past Suhaimi at his near post. The Terengganu keeper stood tall to make the save.

The goalless encounter sprung to life in the second half when Storm Roux played a cross into the path of Kuol in the box. The Mariners striker’s header was destined for the back of the net until Suhaimi tipped it away from the top corner.

Then came a crushing blow from Terengganu to the Mariners’ hopes of victory. The opening goal came via a corner from Sony Nordé swung toward the front post, where Engku Nur Shakir stooped to nod his header looping over the head of Vukovic and into the opposite top corner. Jacob Farrell failed to clear the danger as the ball brushed off his chest on the way over the line.

Shortly after conceding the opener, the Mariners were down the other end attempting to level the score – but when Angel Torres elected to strike into the side netting instead of crossing to Tulio, the frustration among the Mariners squad was palpable.

Substitute Jing Reec missed an open header just nine seconds after coming off the bench, and with less than 10 minutes to play the Mariners looked almost certain to drift to a disappointing defeat at home – before fellow substitutes Christian Theoharous and Di Pizio combined to bring the hosts level.

Theoharous picked Di Pizio out with an earl cross of the left wing; it initially looked as though latter had wasted the opportunity to score, delaying too long before taking his shot – but the strike was perfectly placed into the roof of the net.

The 17-year-old let his emotions flow in celebration of his first competitive goal in senior club football.