Mariners held, Newcastle beat Brisbane
The Central Coast Mariners had their lead at the top of the A-League cut in half this weekend after they had to be content with a 1-1 draw against Melbourne Victory today.
Daniel McBreen's 77th-minute penalty ensured the Mariners avoided defeat after Marcos Flores fired the third-placed Victory ahead on 42 minutes. But the draw meant the Mariners' advantage now stands at two points after closest rivals Adelaide United won 3-2 at home to Perth Glory yesterday.
The match was played across the Bass Strait in Launceston - as part of Victory's push to market the league in Tasmania - and the 6,238 fans at Aurora Stadium were rewarded with an action-packed encounter.
Marco Rojas missed an early penalty after Nick Montgomery - who had already been booked - felled Flores with a poor challenge, only for his team-mate to smack his spot-kick against the post.
Central Coast boss Graham Arnold responded by hauling off Montgomery after 39 minutes but his side still went behind just before the break when Flores profited from Adama Traore's cut-back to score with his weaker left foot.
The visitors' afternoon took another turn for the worst on the stroke of half-time when Arnold was sensationally dismissed to the stands following an exchange with referee Jarred Gillett.
Despite being barred from communicating with the bench during the second half, Arnold was regularly seen using his mobile phone in a move that will likely came under scrutiny from Football Federation Australia.
In spite of the controversy the Mariners slowly clawed their way back into the contest and were rewarded with a penalty in the 77th minute when Adrian Leijer brought down Michael McGlinchey. McBreen made no mistake from the spot with his 13th goal of the season to level the game.
In today's other game, defending champions the Brisbane Roar missed the chance to move into the finals placings following a 1-0 loss at the Newcastle Jets. Ryan Griffiths grabbed the match-winner on 48 minutes to push the Jets, who were without injured marquee signing Emile Heskey, up to fifth.