Mariners fall to Roar in Bluetongue belter

CENTRAL Coast Mariners have been defeated 3-2 in the second leg of the Hyundai A-League major semi-final played at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford this evening.

CENTRAL Coast Mariners have been defeated 3-2 in the second leg of the Hyundai A-League major semi-final played at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford this evening.

The cumulative 5-2 defeat to Ange Postecoglou-s team over two legs means Graham Arnold-s men will need to dispose of Ian Ferguson-s Perth Glory outfit next Saturday night at Gosford-s idyllic bayside arena to secure back-to-back Hyundai A-League Grand Finals at Suncorp Stadium.

It was a spirited Mariners outfit that took to the field on Sunday inspired by a parachocial home crowd. Presented the Hyundai A-League Premier-s Plate before kick-off for finishing the regular season top of the pile, the Mariners had their tails up as they left the sheds.

However the contest couldn-t have started any worse for the home team when they fell behind 1-0 on the night and 3-0 on aggregate in just the second minute of play. Indeed, it was in highly controversial circumstances that Roar extended their aggregate advantage, with youngster Mitch Nichols appearing to be in an offside position and then advancing into Mariners goalkeeper Mathew Ryan-s line of sight as German import Thomas Broich floated in a well-taken free kick. With Ryan having to cover his near post, the ball evaded everyone to fly across the six-yard box and into the back of the net.

Despite the substantial setback Central Coast refused to accept the battle had been lost, and had two half-chances to restore parity on the night through Josh Rose and Adam Kwasnik in the 19th and 21st minutes. First Rose made a powerful run from the left only to fire directly at Michael Theoklitos, before the same player delivered an enticing cross for striker Kwasnik two minutes later. Kwasnik did well to make contact with Rose-s cross, however his diving header flew past Theoklitos- right post.

In the 26th minute Roar doubled their advantage on the evening and looked to have put the tie beyond reasonable doubt. Crafty work from Brazilian attacker Henrique found Nichols who slid the ball past Ryan on the angle.

Graham Arnold has developed a proud group of players and determined not to let themselves or their fans down, the Mariners looked to find a way back into the contest. Tom Rogic fired over Theoklitos- woodwork shortly after Nichols- goal, before dynamic Dutch defender Patrick Zwaanswijk halved the deficit on the night in the 29th minute. Striking a powerful low shot from 25 metres having picked up possession outside the box, Zwaanswijk gave the yellow and navy faithful hope that they may be about to witness an historic comeback.

And, the fans in the stands began to believe one of the most epic nights in Mariners history could be on the cards when Kwasnik levelled proceedings in the 32nd minute. Bending the ball past Theoklitos following good work by Oliver Bozanic, Kwasnik not only restored parity to the match but added life to the two-legged tie.

The buzz began to grow at Bluetongue Stadium and the message from astute Mariners mentor Arnold in his half-time address seemed obvious after the break. Needing three goals for and zero against in the ensuing 45 minutes to take the tie, the Mariners looked to attack from the start of the second stanza. And it was Rogic and John Sutton who had chances to hand the Mariners a second leg lead. Unfortunately for the home team, Rogic-s shot from the edge of the area flew over the bar, while Sutton couldn-t quite manage to connect with an incisive pass from midfield general John Hutchinson.

At the other end, Ryan - celebrating his 20th birthday on the day - showed his talent to drop low and deny Brisbane striker Besart Berisha his 20th goal of the season in the 57th minute.

With less than half an hour to play, it was obvious Arnold-s team still believed they could fire three more past Roar, and Rogic and Bozanic both crafted good attempts to score. Slaloming through the heart of the Roar defence, an off balance Rogic saw his shot at the end of his mazy run fly wide of Theoklitos- left post. Soon after, Bozanic cannoned a stinging drive at goal from long range, but the former Melbourne Victory custodian was up to the task to push the ball away for a corner.

Unfortunately for the Mariners, Henrique, scorer of a goal in the first leg held eight days earlier in Brisbane, would find the back of the net in Gosford as well. Known as the ‘slippery fish-, Henrique rounded an advancing Ryan following a neat ball from Berisha, prodding the ball into an unguarded net.

While Zwaanswijk unleashed another stunning effort at goal in the 72nd minute only to have his drive this time tipped away for a corner, the Mariners couldn-t manage to fashion too many more chances to equalise on the night. Indeed, Arnold made three substitutions in the final 20 minutes of play in a late bid to level or even win the second leg, however Roar held on to claim the 3-2 victory and their place in the competition decider.

After the match, Arnold said that in a crazy way he was happy that his team would have to play again next week.

“It might sound crazy but I-m very happy that we-re not having a weekend off and that we-ll play Saturday,” he said.

“When you have a weekend off it can flatten you and it can kill your momentum … hopefully we-ll play like that [next weekend].”

And, Arnold said he was proud of the way his team applied themselves in the contest.

“We didn-t get the big decisions today,” he said. “What we can control is our football performance and it was very good.”

“It was a great game of football, a great spectacle.”

“You-ve got to give full credit to Brisbane, they-ve had a tough week and they-ve put on a great performance.”

“If we got totally outplayed and we were not at the races, then there-d be concern.”

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 2 (Zwaanswijk 29-, Kwasnik 32-) Brisbane Roar 3 (Broich 2-, Nichols 26, Henrique 68-)

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (Gk), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK (16. Trent SAINSBURY 73-), 7. John HUTCHINSON, 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael MCGLINCHEY, 17. Tomas ROGIC (22. Mustafa AMINI 73-), 18. Alex WILKINSON (C), 19. John SUTTON (9. Bernie IBINI 77-), 23. Adam KWASNIK

Subs not Used: 20. Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 2. Daniel MCBREEN

Yellow Cards: Kwasnik, Zwaanswijk, Bojic, Sainsbury, Wilkinson

Red Cards: None

Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS, 2. Matthew SMITH (C), 3. Shane STEFANUTTO (19. Jack HINGERT 71-), 5. Ivan FRANJIC (4. Matthew JURMAN 84-), 6. Erik PAARTALU, 7. Besart BERISHA, 8. Massimo MURDOCCA (18. Luke BRATTAN 59-), 10. HENRIQUE, 16. Mohamed ADNAN, 17. Mitchell NICHOLS, 22. Thomas BROICH

Subs not Used: 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (Gk), 24. Nick FITZGERALD

Yellow Cards: Brattan

Red Cards: None

Referee: Jarred GILLETT

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