Central Coast are setting themselves up as the A-League’s comeback kings after chalking up a second successive come-from-behind win in a 3-2 victory over Western United in Gosford.
Two goals in four minutes from cult hero Alou Kuol gave the Mariners a stunning triumph after trailing at halftime, just four days after they did the exact same thing to Melbourne City.
On this occasion, Alen Stajcic’s men were down 2-1 with 13 minutes left on the clock when teenager Kuol landed his fourth and fifth goals of the season to make it 3-2 – the same final score as the Mariners’ turnaround win against City on Wednesday.
Earlier in the week United coach Mark Rudan labelled Stajcic a magician for the way he has turned around the fortunes of the Mariners this season.
And on Sunday night the former Matildas coach did that reputation no harm at all, adding an injection of energy from the bench for his side to come home strong in their third game in eight days.
“There’s no magic, the magic is hard work,” Stajcic said.
“When you put the hard work in sometimes you get rewarded and we’re in a moment now where the hard work we put in over the pre-season is paying off and the best part is it’s instilled some belief and confidence.
“To comeback with fatigue against a scoreline like that took an amazing amount of courage and I couldn’t be any prouder of them.”
The win put last season’s wooden-spooners back on top of the A-League ladder with five wins from seven as they face the next month on the road.
Goals to Tomislav Uskok and Besart Berisha gave United a 2-1 lead at the break with Mariners veteran Matt Simon also getting on the board.
But the comeback specialists got into their stride when Stajcic threw on Kuol on 61 minutes.
The 19-year-old equalised from a Daniel De Silva corner on 77 minutes, before diving to head in a cross from fellow replacement Daniel Bouman four minutes later to send the Mariners’ fans into raptures.
All three goals were a concern for United coach Mark Rudan.
“We conceded two goals from set pieces and we didn’t defend a cross, and as far as I’m concerned they’re things that we talk about and work on,” he said.
“You can work on it all day long, you can give the players all the information they require and they need, nothing today wasn’t spoken about or wasn’t worked on.
“And you just expect your players to go out there and perform and do the job.”
The Mariners will face Wellington next Sunday in Wollongong, while United will play Sydney FC on Saturday at AAMI Park.