Mariners roar into A-League finals

Central Coast Mariners will play one of Adelaide United, Sydney FC or Newcastle Jets in the first week of the Hyundai A-League 2014 Finals Series after Phil Moss’s men defeated Brisbane Roar 2-0 at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.

Central Coast Mariners will play one of Adelaide United, Sydney FC or Newcastle Jets in the first week of the Hyundai A-League 2014 Finals Series after Phil Moss-s men defeated Brisbane Roar 2-0 at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.

The strong win over Mike Mulvey-s Premiership winning side secured the yellow and navy third place on the Hyundai A-League regular season ladder, and confirmed Central Coast will host a sudden death final at home in Gosford next weekend.

With Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory having both secured triumphs earlier in the day, the Mariners kicked-off the match needing to secure all three points to guarantee semi-final football would return to Central Coast Stadium yet again.

But if there was any pressure on Moss-s men it failed to show as the 2014 AFC Champions League combatants rallied to not only thwart the best advances of the runaway league winners, but put the Queenslanders to the sword when opportunities presented themselves.

The strong Suncorp success was secured via goals by youngsters Nick Fitzgerald and Anthony Caceres in the first 45.

To break the deadlock, former Roar attacker Fitzgerald clinically fired the ball beyond Brisbane custodian Michael Theo in the 22nd minute. Fitzgerald-s opportunity and goal came following a precise pass by New Zealand international Storm Roux.

Central Coast doubled their advantage in the 28th minute when - for the second time this season - Caceres fired the ball into the back of the net from outside the box. Much like his effort in round 16 against Newcastle Jets, the talented midfielder let fly to leave the goalkeeper, in this case Theo, stranded.

In the second stanza Roar controlled vast chunks of the possession however failed to breach the determined Central Coast backline.

And, the Mariners might have added to their own tally had their finishing during a number of swift raids after the break been slightly more clinical.

Nevertheless, the overall showing by the Mariners at Brisbane-s premier sports venue impressed Central Coast boss Moss and proved to football fans across the country that the yellow and navy have the players, smarts and belief to retain their Hyundai A-League Championship crown.

“Tonight-s win certainly fills us with a lot of confidence,” Moss said. “We-re playing in two competitions at the moment and we came here with a plan tonight.”

“It was a little bit experimental and something we hadn't done before. I am just so delighted with the way the players bought into it [the plan] early in the week and adapted to it as the week went on. If players don-t like the plan or system it can-t be executed but they were fantastic tonight.”

Moss added: “We made the whole week about us, not about any other result or any other team in the league.”

“We know that we let second place slip from having destiny in our own hands last week [against Perth Glory] and we were disappointed with that but there were certainly extraordinary circumstances surrounding that performance.”

“We knew it was just a blip in our season and we wanted to prove that tonight and I thought the energy levels, the discipline, the focus, the intensity, and the belief was outstanding.”

“Every time we broke with the ball we looked dangerous. So full credit to the players and certainly it-s given us a real shot in the arm moving forward.”

The Mariners will discover who they will play in the first week of the Hyundai A-League 2014 Finals Series following Sydney FC-s clash with Perth Glory at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on Sunday.

Asked which team he-d prefer face next week, Moss said: “Whoever - bring them on.”

Before next weekend-s final, Central Coast Mariners will play FC Seoul in the 2014 AFC Champions League Group Stage on Wednesday 16 April. A win against Choi Yong-soo-s men will keep the Mariners on top of AFC Champions League Group F, and could see the yellow and navy qualify for the round of 16 of Asia-s top club competition for a second successive year.

Brisbane Roar 0 Central Coast Mariners 2 (Fitzgerald 22-, Caceres 28-) Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEO (Gk), 2. Matt SMITH (C), 3. Shane STEFANUTTO, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 7. Besart BERISHA, 11. Liam MILLER (10. HENRIQUE 69-), 13. Jade NORTH, 17. Matt MCKAY, 18. Luke BRATTAN (8. Steven LUSTICA 66-), 22. Thomas BROICH, 23. Dmitri PETRATOS Substitutes not used: 15. James DONACHIE, 19. Jack HINGERT, 20. Matthew ACTON (Gk) Yellow cards: Franjic, Brattan Red cards: Nil

Central Coast Mariners FC: 3. Joshua ROSE, 5. Zachary ANDERSON, 8. Nick MONTGOMERY (C), 9. Mitchell DUKE, 11. Nick FITZGERALD (29. Matt SIM 70-), 12. Liam REDDY (Gk), 15. Storm ROUX, 17. Anthony CACERES, 20. Bernie IBINI, 25. Eddy BOSNAR (6. Brent GRIFFITHS 46-), 28. Glen TRIFIRO (21. Mile STERJOVSKI 80-) Substitutes not used: 1. Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 27. Isaka CERNAK Yellow cards: Nil Red cards: Nil

Attendance: 14,218 Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones