Roy O'Donovan of the Mariners (left) is confronted by Tim Cahill of City after being sent off.
Roy O'Donovan of the Mariners (left) is confronted by Tim Cahill of City after being sent off. DAVID CROSLING

Cahill scores brace in clash tinged with controversy

TIM Cahill scores goals, the referees create controversy and Melbourne City grinds out a result.

It was just another standard A-League game at AAMI Park.

City defeated lowly Central Coast 2-1 on Thursday night in a game during which it had a man advantage for 67 minutes.

Cahill scored a first half double - his season tally now seven - bookending an equaliser from Roy O'Donovan, who went from hero to zero when he was sent off for a swinging arm on Michael Jakobsen.

In scenes eerily similar to those at the same ground six nights earlier, referee Daniel Elder acted on the advice of his linesman before sending O'Donovan from the field in the 23rd minute.

Player and bench were irate and yet again pundits and social media exploded at what was another contentious refereeing decision that had a huge impact on the outcome of a game.

True, O'Donovan's arm collected Jakobsen in the face as the pair was heading backwards while the play approached them, the Danish defender reacting angrily to the contact.

But there was no malice, no excessive force and it was definitely not an incident befitting a charge of violent conduct.

It was more red than Besart Berisha's last week - his card later rescinded - but it was soft nonetheless and just the latest dicey call made by officials this season.

It is also true that City deserved the win.

Michael Valkanis's side dominated general play and the hosts registered a staggering 26 shots to two from 64% possession.

Paul Izzo was fantastic in goal for the Mariners - he had to be - while with some more luck the enterprising Nicolas Colazo would have scored at least once rather than hitting the post twice.

But a City side that has lacked a killer punch for the past month and a half was again guilty of keeping its opponent in the contest.

Football Federation Australia boss David Gallop was in the stands and he would be liking the return on his organisation's investment in Cahill after he scored twice in the first 39 minutes.

His first, in minute three, came after he sidefooted in a low Luke Brattan free kick.

His second was a trademark header at the back post, Brattan again the provider.

Colazo - on at least four occasions - Neil Kilkenny and Bruno Fornaroli - twice - all had golden chances to add their names to the score sheet, but ultimately the only other score was O'Donovan's ninth-minute strike, teed up by a combination of Connor Pain's cross and City's sloppy defending.

City players were wearing black armbands out of respect for the father of former coach John van't Schip, who passed away just hours before kick-off.

Van't Schip resigned on January 3 to return to the Netherlands to help care for his dad, who was then in palliative care.


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