Brett Emerton's late goal handed Sydney FC a 1-0 victory over ladder-leading Central Coast Mariners who had John Hutchinson and Tom Rogic sent off
|By JOHN GRECO
A Brett Emerton goal just one minute from time has handed Sydney FC a crucial 1-0 upset win over nine-man Central Coast at Allianz Stadium on Thursday night.
The Sky Blues looked like being forced to settle for a draw despite their spirited performance against the league-leaders until Emerton's late header secured a valuable three points.
The Socceroos midfielder arrived perfectly at the back post to meet Ali Abbas' cross, outjumping Josh Rose and diverting his header over Matt Ryan and into the far corner of the net.
But the drama didn't end there with Mariners skipper John Hutchinson and young midfielder Tom Rogic both sent off in stoppage time.
Hutchinson was dismissed for two bookable offences while Rogic was given a straight red for a horror challenge on Sky Blues defender Rhyan Grant.
But that was of little concern to Sydney and the crowd of more than 16,000 that showed up with the Sky Blues snapping a two-game losing streak and getting their first win at Allianz this season.
It was the perfect way to get revenge for the 7-2 drubbing at the hands of the Mariners earlier this season, with the Sky Blues now off the bottom of the ladder ahead of their New Year's Eve clash with Adelaide.
Things went wrong for the visitors even before kick-off with the players only arriving at the ground less than an hour before kick-off after a mix-up with the team bus on the Central Coast.
And the Mariners' rushed lead-up to the game encouraged Sydney into a fast start and they almost stole the lead through Yairo Yau inside 10 minutes.
Unsurprisingly, Alessandro Del Piero was involved - his clever flick over the defence gave the Panamanian a sight on goal but he scuffed his shot high and wide.
Sydney's defence has been their problem for much of the season and it was another error at the back which almost saw them concede.
Adam Griffiths gifted possession to the Mariners just inside his own half, allowing Daniel McBreen to be sent through on goal but the in-form strikers swinging shot went inches wide of the far post.
The Sky Blues were enjoying large chunks of possession without causing too much threat to the Mariners' goal with the exception of a couple of shots from distance by Del Piero.
But the home side were unlucky not to go ahead right on the stroke of half-time when the Italian's wicked corner almost deceived everyone except for the alert Trent Sainsbury, who managed to clear the ball off the line.
Sydney continued to manufacture the best chances early in the second half with Griffiths going close with a header before Blake Powell's strong individual run ended with a shot into the side-netting.
Half chances presented themselves at both ends before McBreen really should have opened the scoring 15 minutes from time.
The A-League's leading scorer found himself one-on-one with Vedran Janjetovic and appeared to deceive him with a shimmy, only for the Sydney 'keeper to somehow get back on his feet and smother the shot.
Rogic then wasted a glorious chance six minutes from the end when he side-footed over from six yards out when he seemed certain to score.
And the miss proved costly with Emerton popping up at the depth to grab a win which Sydney will hope can turn their stuttering season around.