Ladder-leading Sydney FC have beaten Central Coast 3-0 in Gosford, bouncing back from a heavy loss in the Asian Champions League.
Sydney FC have bounced back from their heavy Asian Champions League loss with a 3-0 victory over Central Coast in Gosford.
The Sky Blues were thumped 4-0 by Yokohama F Marinos just four days prior, but managed to put away a defiant Mariners in the dying minutes at Central Coast Stadium in front of a crowd of 5376.
Although the teams are separated by 30 points on the A-League ladder, the game was tense at 1-0 until the 89th minute when Marco Tilio and Harry Van Der Saag scored their first goals to put the result to bed.
The dual goals broke an 80-minute deadlock after Milos Ninkovic had scored the opener from an easy cross kick in the ninth minute.
"I'm very pleased with the three points because it's been a tough week travelling to Japan and the result that we had over there, it's disappointing," coach Steve Corica said.
"The boys started well, you could see they recovered well from the trip. Fatigue started to hit them and they gave the ball away a little bit and Central Coast put us under a lot of pressure.
"We defended well, kept another clean sheet, three in a row. You've got to dig deep in these games and they all did. It was excellent."
The biggest moment of the game came just before halftime as VAR overturned a Mariners goal which would have been the first for Gianni Stensness.
The Mariners were lucky to get the free kick in the lead-up, but Stensness's header was denied soon after, as Eunsun Kim blocked Alex Wilkinson from an offside position.
It was a contentious moment which split opinion. Although technically correct, it was deemed harsh by angry Mariners fans.
Central Coast coach Alen Stajcic was furious while returning to the sheds at halftime and was filmed in a tense conversation with referee Chris Beath in the tunnel.
"I didn't have any conversation, I just asked him what it was for and he said it was an offside goal for Kim, the blocker. I just said that I haven't seen that given yet this year," Stajcic said.
"I've seen a blocker in every free kick and that's from a wide area this year and then that was the first one that was pulled up for some reason.
"You'd have to ask Chris and the linesman why they actually gave that one and not all the other free kicks where there's people standing offside before it's taken.
"It was an unusual decision but that's their call. VAR checked it, so it must be fine."
The Mariners put up a tough fight against the A-League champions, taking the game down to the wire with a flurry of activity in the second half.
Meanwhile, Sydney's Paulo Retre will cop a suspension for his fifth yellow card of the season for disrupting a free kick in the 21st minute.
He will miss next week's derby with Western Sydney, which was rescheduled from round 18 due to poor weather.
The Mariners will play Western United on Sunday afternoon at GMHBA Stadium.