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Birighitti brilliance earns Mariners draw

Central Coast have scored late against Melbourne Victory to pinch an A-League Men point despite being dominated on their home deck.

In-form Nick D’Agostino struck to deliver the Victory the lead but that was cancelled out six minutes from time when Mariners substitute Nicolai Muller bobbed up to square the match at 1-1.

Only a masterful display from Mariners keeper Mark Birighitti allowed them to hang on for the draw, with the in-form custodian making a number of stunning stops to keep Victory at bay at Central Coast Stadium.

Melbourne Victory captain Josh Brillante said his side had wasted a golden opportunity to take three points.

“Frustrated is the word for us today,” he told Paramount.

“We thought we controlled most of the game until the end there, we dropped off a bit and let them come back in the game.

“We had a few chances earlier on, if we put them away then it would have been a different game.”

The Mariners started on the front foot and could have led early when Victory keeper Ivan Kelava was caught out by a long ball that required another defender to intervene and deny Jason Cummings an open goal.

Victory took a while to get going but announced themselves on 20 minutes via a Marco Rojas curling effort that needed saving by Birighitti.

Clearly his side’s best player, Birighitti was called upon again from the subsequent corner to claw out a powerful header, while he used his leg to deny Ben Folami soon after a delightful Rojas ball put him through.

Birighitti’s masterclass continued after the break with another strong leg save denying Rojas on 62 minutes, with Victory unable to score again despite their dominance.

The Mariners had few chances of real note until Joshua Nisbet’s delightful cross for Marco Urena 10 minutes from time, but the Costa Rican’s diving header missed the target from close range.

But a long ball into the Victory box created a scramble and Muller bashed it past Kelava to level the score on 84 minutes.

Muller said the point was a fine outcome for his side in a tough fixture.

“We did a big mistake in the first half and gave the lead away, then it’s hard against a really good team to come back,” he told Paramount.

“Our goal going in was to get three points, but you have to look at the game … it’s a good strong side we’re against and in the end a point is good.”

The result left Victory querying an early flashpoint moment shortly after the half-hour that saw Mariner defender Lewis Miller, already on a yellow card, crunch Folami.

But referee Stephen Lucas opted against issuing a second ticket even after pulling the card out of his pocket.

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