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Jets spoil Mariners’ return from World Cup

Garang Kuol of the Mariners competes for the ball with Newcastle's Beka Mikeltadze in Gosford.

Garang Kuol of the Mariners competes for the ball with Newcastle's Beka Mikeltadze in Gosford. Photo: Getty

Central Coast Mariners coach Nick Montgomery says it will take some time for his Socceroos contingent to return to its best after a 2-1 upset loss to local rival Newcastle Jets at Central Coast Stadium.

The Mariners had more than one reason to get up for Sunday’s game: They were hosting an F3 Derby for their first game since mid-November and had repatriated World Cup stars Jason Cummings, Garang Kuol and Danny Vukovic.

But Central Coast looked worryingly flat for key periods of the game and were made to pay by a Newcastle side that surged to fifth place on the A-League ladder.

Aside from a Cummings’ goal that drew the scores level in the second half, the Socceroos had limited impact on the contest.

“No excuses but they all came back pretty jet-lagged and all seemed to have a bit of a stomach bug,” said Montgomery.

“Jason said he felt his stomach was going to go.

“It’s going to take them a while to get back. None of them played much game time (at the World Cup) so it was really just three weeks of training.

“We had three or four games in that time so we’ve got to get them up to speed now for a big season ahead.”

Central Coast flew out of the blocks and almost scored inside 30 seconds, when Brazilian Marco Tulio hit the right upright.

It was to be the Mariners’ best chance for the rest of the half as the Jets took control and had the opener from a Daniel Stynes cross to Trent Buhagiar in the 12th minute.

In the first half, the Jets did a great job on Cummings, who sprayed his first clear-cut opportunity high of the goal in the 43rd minute.

The Mariners looked more like themselves in the second half and managed to turn pressure into a goal just after the break.

The ball deflected from a Jets defender over to Cummings and the Scottish-born cult hero stretched a foot out to push it slowly into the goal.

Newcastle goalkeeper Jack Duncan is beaten by Jason Cummings’ shot. Photo: Getty

The 7078-strong Gosford crowd gave Cummings a standing ovation and did the same when he was subbed out seven minutes later, replaced by fellow Socceroo Garang Kuol.

Kuol’s injection into the game usually yields quick results for the Mariners but Newcastle was next to score, against the run of play, when the two Georgian Jets combined from a corner to exploit some poorly-constructed Mariners defence.

Beka Dartsmelia curved the ball to Beka Mikeltadze, who had an alarming amount of time and space to head the ball straight past Vukovic.

Vukovic punched the woodwork in frustration, aware of his teammates’ lapse in concentration, and the Mariners were down 2-1.

Josh Nisbet looked to have equalised when he curled the ball into the goal from the edge of the box but VAR intervened and spotted a Michael Ruhs hand-ball in the lead-up.

Kuol has become known for his late moments of magic but neither he nor his teammates could close the gap despite the Mariners dominating possession as the game drew to a close.

“It was the perfect way to start (after the World Cup break),” Jets coach Arthur Papas said.

“The team has strong unity and a really great attitude to really want to work and grow together.”

-AAP

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