Melbourne City have been denied confirmation of their third straight premiers plate, held to a 1-1 draw on the Central Coast by the Mariners.
City youngster Jordy Bos looked to have them on course to go 10 points clear of Adelaide United with his 63rd-minute strike on Saturday night, only for Josh Nisbet to cancel his goal out 15 minutes later and force the draw.
They’re still red-hot favourites to seal their unprecedented third straight premiership, sitting eight points clear with the Reds needing to win all three of their remaining games to be a chance to overturn the deficit.
The league-leaders may not have sewn up the Isuzu UTE A-League Premiership on Saturday night, but the point did earn City the Club Championship for the second-consecutive season – the trophy awarded to the club that earns the most regular-season points across both the Isuzu UTE A-League and Liberty A-League.
Bos, in such strong form throughout the campaign, produced one of his finest moments. He got the ball from Frenchman Florin Berenguer and cut inside onto his right foot, curling the ball past Central Coast keeper Danny Vukovic for a brilliant goal.
But he admitted his side has wasted a chance to seal some silverware in a clash of two top teams.
“It was very similar to my first goal this season, it just came nicely off the right peg, I looked up and it hit the back of the net,” he told Paramount+.
“It’s definitely disappointing we let that one slip but the boys gave it our all, we had our chances.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t put them away.”
Nisbet had the perfect answer and finally found the goal the hosts’ creativity deserved, beating two defenders and his shot took a wicked deflection that gave City custodian Tom Glover zero chance to keep it out.
The goals brought the somewhat-cagey battle to life and end-to-end football ensued, Glover producing a brilliant save to deny Moresche’s close-range header, before City marksman Jamie Maclaren had a great chance to win it but fired straight at Vukovic.
Moresche would have been kicking himself for not scoring on 90 minutes, drifting in to head the ball straight at Glover from point-blank range as both sides found new ways to spurn chances.
Bos almost snatched the plate in added time with a ferocious strike prompting a reflex stop from Vukovic, before the Mariners keeper was required again to stop Maclaren.
City have Western United and Western Sydney to close their regular season and would seal the premiership with any result, while they’ll also have one eye on preparations for the finals campaign where they’ll look to avenge last year’s grand final defeat.
Adelaide will need to win all three of their games to stay in the hunt for the title, including against Western United on Sunday.
Central Coast’s Nisbet said his side had lifted when the visitors dropped their intensity after taking the lead.
“We started well but they built into the game a bit, they got a goal and I thought they sat back a little bit when they could have maybe kept going,” he said.
“We got a goal and we sort of did the same and we were hanging on at that point.”