Central Coast Mariners have bounced back from their round-one thrashing to claim their first points of the A-League season after holding Western Sydney Wanderers to a 2-2 draw at Olympic Park.
Suggestions that the Mariners' 5-1 rout at the hands of Newcastle was an early symptom of a problematic season were muffled by a far more organised and disciplined display in round two away from home. Paul Okon's men put in a brave performance to thwart the Wanderers, whose second game under the tenure of caretaker coach Hayden Foxe was far less impressive than their round-one win.
The Wanderers' bemoaned a more subdued performance from their big-game players, in particular marquees Oriol Riera and Alvaro Cejudo.
Entering a round-two match with the rare comfort of having won on the opening day, the Wanderers were understandably confident. Riera embodied that in the opening stanza, skipping past two defenders before testing Central Coast goalkeeper Tom Glover from close range but the youngster parried the shot to safety.
That confidence quickly turned into comfort as Western Sydney toyed with Central Coast's midfield with ease. But without any goals to show for their dominance, the Wanderers' comfort became complacency.
Against the run of play, the Mariners pounced. Andrew Hoole found himself with space inside the box and struck a left-footed shot that didn't appear to have the power or the placement to truly test Western Sydney goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic. However, the shot stopper made a calamitous mistake, dropping the ball at the feet of Mariners' striker Asdrubal, who made no mistake from point-blank range.
Central Coast should have doubled their advantage after the half-hour mark when Connor Pain and Asdrubal beat the Wanderers' offside trap to create a two-on-one against Janjetovic. Pain drew the keeper with Asdrubal open in front of goal, but the winger opted to shoot himself instead of giving his teammate a tap-in. Janjetovic atoned for his earlier error by making a fine save.
They were made to rue that error just minutes later when Wout Brama brought Roly Bonevacia down inside the box. Referee Chris Beath had no hesitation to point to the spot and Riera rifled the ball into the corner of the net to draw the scores level 1-1.
The Wanderers' hopes of a comeback suffered a setback when veteran defender Michael Thwaite was forced off with an injury immediately after the restart, replaced by Brendan Hamill.
Hoole and Daniel De Silva sought to take advantage of that reshuffle in the 63rd minute. A slide-rule pass from Hoole caught out Western Sydney's defence and the fleet-footed De Silva honed in on goal and chipped the ball over the oncoming Janjetovic. A desperate lunge from Hamill couldn't deny the inevitable as the Mariners stole the lead once more.
However, it lasted merely five minutes. New Wanderers signing Josh Risdon broke free down the right flank and whipped in a dangerous cross that Glover couldn't contain. The Mariners goalkeeper spilled the ball into the path of the oncoming Bonevacia, who smashed the ball into the back of the net to draw the game level at 2-2.
The Wanderers' hopes of snatching a later winner received a boost when Hoole received his marching orders in the 85th minute for a second yellow card. But they couldn't take advantage of the extra man and were forced to settle for a share of the points.