Substitute Matthew Sim scored four goals in just 20 second half minutes to help the Central Coast Mariners to a 5-0 drubbing of Palm Beach Sharks in the Westfield FFA Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday night.
Sim entered the fray on 72 minutes and scored with his first touch before going on to add three more before the end.
The Mariners, who led 1-0 at the break thanks to Isaka Cernak’s bullet volley, are now the first side through to the last four of the competition and will fancy their chances of going all the way.
0-1 Cernak (28’) – Glen Trifiro produced a clever through ball with the outside of his right foot, the ball spinning into the path of Cernak who let rip with powerful low drive into the far corner of the net.
0-2 Sim (72’) – Substitute Sim had only been on the field for a matter of seconds when he was in the right spot at the right time. After Sharks ‘keeper Shane Vitakangas fumbled Trifiro’s shot from distance, Sim had the simple task to tap the ball into the goal from close range.
0-3 Sim (75’) – It was that same combination again just a few minutes later as Trifiro split the Sharks defence with a brilliant through-ball which Sim raced onto before slotting under Vitakangas from just inside the box.
0-4 Sim (90’) – The substitute completed his hat-trick right at the death with another poacher’s goal, slamming home the loose ball from just a couple of metres out after Fitzgerald’s vicious drive was again dropped by the Sharks’ custodian.
0-5 Sim (92’) – Sim saved the best for last, finishing off a mazy run through four defenders before cooling slotting it past Vitakangas to complete an historic night – the first player to score four goals in a Westfield FFA Cup match.
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The Mariners clearly weren’t about to underestimate their less-fancied opponents, taking the game to the Sharks from the opening whistle. They had a huge 70 percent of possession in the opening half and got off nine shots to the home side’s zero in the first 45 minutes. That dominance told after the break with the Sharks tiring late-on allowing the visitors to add a couple more goals.
This time last year Trifiro was playing NSW NPL football. But after being given a chance by the Mariners he has shown he belongs at this level, as evidenced by his assist for the opening goal. Trifiro showed good awareness to turn in traffic, play a one-two with Richard Vernes before slipping a classy through-ball with the outside of his right foot. Two more assists in the second half capped a man of the match performance for the diminutive midfielder.
Back to the drawing board
While the Mariners undoubtedly have more quality in the squad, the Sharks decided to sit very deep right from the outset with even the Fox Sports commentators observing they had “parked two buses” in front of their goal.
The tactic played right into the hands of the Hyundai A-League club, who had truckloads of possession and eventually wore down the Sharks defence to pounce.
The Final Word
Defeat brings the curtain down on the Sharks memorable season, which saw them win the Queensland PS4 NPL and go deep in the Westfield FFA Cup. While they will be disappointed not to have pushed the Mariners harder, Grae Piddick’s troops can be proud of the effort and they did their part to put Gold Coast football back in the national spotlight.
The Mariners march on to the last four and coach Phil Moss will be delighted to have got the job done with a host of young talent in the side. A few fringe players have certainly pressed their claims for a starting berth, which will give the Mariners boss some pleasant headaches in coming weeks. Two wins – and two clean-sheets - in four days to start the season will undoubtedly have confidence at a high around the club and is the perfect way to head into the weekend’s home clash with the Wellington Phoenix.
Palm Beach: Vitakangas (GK), Dillon, McKay, Lucas, Mirkovic (Grzic 81’), Murphy, Boxell (Mason 65’), Rees, Ruthven, Dragicevic (Camilleri 26’), Dodd
Central Coast: Reddy (GK), Vernes (Sim 71’), Anderson, Hutchinson, Fitzgerald, Morton, Caceres, Neill, Bosnar, Cernak (Slater 85’), Trifiro (Kalik (81’)
Scorers: Cernak (28’), Sim (72’), Sim (75’), Sim (90’), Sim (92’)
Red cards: N/A
Yellow cards: Rees (41’), Sim (88’)
Conditions: 24C, Dry