• Thomas Pombart

Cup thrashing highlights fast starts and youth as keys for the Mariners

The Central Coast Mariners have progressed to the FFA Cup Semi-Finals for a third time, defeating APIA Leichhardt 6-0.


Max Balard, Dan Hall, Matheus Moresche, Garang Kuol, Matt Hatch, and Noah Smith got on the scoresheet in the comfortable win at Leichhardt Oval.


An explosive and electric start paid off for the Mariners, a one-two punch in the opening 25 minutes immediately putting the game to bed against the NPL highflyers.


The Mariners created multiple openings in the first half, exploiting the width with balls from central areas.


The A-League Men side showed their professional class by starting extremely strong.


On the other hand, APIA created minimal attacking opportunities, choosing only to provide long balls for the pace of Hassan Jalloh and Jason Romero.

Balard celebrates his opening goal with Hall at Leichhardt Oval. (Getty Images)

 

The Mariners started a slightly rotated side, which featured six academy graduates, two of whom scored their first competitive goals.


The hot summer weather would have played a big part in Nick Montgomery's decision to rest key players such as Marcos Urena and Oliver Bozanic.


The Coast has a quick turnaround when they take on Wellington Phoenix on Monday.


These youngsters could play a big part in the upcoming season.


The all-around collective performance from them last night could see European clubs quickly take an interest in their services.


There's no reason to think otherwise after Central Coast's academy has already produced Socceroos such as Matt Ryan, Trent Sainsbury, Mile Jedinak.


Let's not forget hot prospect Alou Kuol, who is now banging in the goals with Stuttgart II in Germany.


Max Balard netted his first senior goal, producing a complete performance alongside Harry Steele, another academy graduate.

The entire midfield and defence who lined up, excluding Kye Rowles and Storm Roux, played their youth football in the Central Coast academy.


Jacob Farrell was very comfortable at left-back, not having much defensive work to do, and he could use his electric pace to compliment Frenchman Béni N'Kololo.


Farrell's high work ethic enhanced the Mariners ability to create attacking overloads that APIA had to face all night.


He was able to play key passes which led to Balard and Hall's goals.


Hall was remarkably comfortable in defence and showed that by venturing further up the field with supreme confidence and causing a straight red card for APIA defender Walter Scott.


There was a familiar last name on the bench for Central Coast fans to get excited about too.


Garang Kuol - younger brother of Alou - scored a wonder-goal on his competitive debut.


He beat two defenders and gave APIA goalkeeper Turnbull no chance with an elegant finish.


Matt Hatch provided a late spark off the bench, capping off the evening festivities with a wonder-goal from a freak angle, further compounding the drenching that APIA received.


It's safe to say that this win was almost solely down to the academy boys stepping up to the plate and showcasing the promising potential they all possess.

The Mariners squad celebrates qualifying for the FFA Cup Semi-Finals at full-time. (Getty Images)

 

The Mariners made quick starts to their recent wins over Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers.


It is an area Montgomery has identified as an essential asset for the Central Coast.


A convincing 15-minute stanza from the off saw them dominate from back to front here as well.


Steele and Balard operated in a flat midfield, which enabled the Coast to move the ball quickly and exploit spaces that opened up across the pitch.


Spaces opened up particularly in wide areas, with the opening two goals created from those regions.

The Mariners have now reached the FFA Cup Semi-Finals for the third time in their history. (Getty Images)


Moresche was dangerous right from the off, creating countless attacking opportunities and being a nuisance in the box, causing all sorts of problems.


He finally got his reward with an excellent finish in the 55th minute.


With another scintillating start, the Mariners picked up where they left off in the A-League Men.


It seems to be forming the basis of their identity under Montgomery.


It is now a matter of continuing in the same manner as the league table begins to take shape, whilst silverware in the cup is undoubtedly in their grasp.