A champion is as a champion does, and the Central Coast Mariners proved their credentials once again on Sunday afternoon with a backs-to-the-wall performance to out run the Melbourne Heart 2-1 despite a heavy travel schedule, and the side lining up for their fifth game in 16 days. In the third edition of the Monday Rundown, we focus on three of the positives that came out of the come-from-behind victory south of the Yarra:
1. The Balancing Act
Phil Moss had his work cut out for him when former coach Graham Arnold departed for the land of the rising sun, inheriting a team desimated by the European summer transfer window. The new boss was left to assimilate an almost enitrely new team to the Mariners special culture, and just when he seemed to have turned the corner; along comes the Asian Champions League.
What Sunday showed us is that Phil Moss has found the perfect balance between travel and game time for his players, allowing adeqaute recovery where required and rotating his squad just enough to provide fresh legs regularly without rash and extreme changes. The Mariners were dominated in possession and shots by the Heart; an expected side effect of the recent cluster of matches, but to win against a side experiencing a late revival under a new reigime with all that has happened for the club over the past 16 days provides plenty of positives heading into the imminent finals series.
2. Flying Under the Radar
The Central Coast thrive on the underdog tag, something that has surely contributed to the vast success of the smallest club in Asia. The Yellow and Navy have been picking up media attention for all the wrong reasons of late after their significant dry spell including going winless through all of February, however it has allowed for business as usual at the Mariners as they can now head into the finals series without expectation, whilst performing in games at the back end of the season that will go largely unnoticed by the bigger sides. All of which plays into the hands of the Gosford based side as they look to defend the title they won against Western Sydney just under a year ago.
3. Bernie is Back!
He left the team after tasting Grand Final success, and he returned under terrible circumstances, but the late revival of the Mariners campaign can rest slightly on the shoulders of the pacey winger Bernie Ibini. Since he came back to Australia shores to be with family after his fathers tragic passing, Ibini has contributed four goals to the Central Coast, making him the leading goal scorer at the club. His speed on the right touchline has troubled opposition defences and his time in the Chinese Super League has increased his awareness and skill on the ball. He is a man to watch for the Coast in the finals.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Who do you think will have the biggest impact for our Mariners heading into the finals, and has Phil Moss got his rotation policy right as the Mariners contend both the A-League and the ACL simultaneously?