Mariners run comes to an end in Elimination Final

The Mariners’ magical season came to an end on Saturday night, as Macarthur struck twice in extra-time to prevail in the first A-League Elimination Final.

Reduced to 10 men when James Meredith was sent off with 15 minutes to play, the Bulls scored through Charles M’Mombwa and Michael Ruhs to secure their spot in the semi-final.

With more than 11,000 in the house at Central Coast Stadium, Alen Stajcic made a number of changes to the team that beat Western United, most notably the return of Daniel DeSilva after two games out through injury.

The visitors started strongly and had the ball in the net after four minutes, but the flag was up quickly for offside and Matt Derbyshire’s effort did not stand.

Mark Birighitti kept scores level with an astounding save 11 minutes in, clawing away James Meredith’s header from the line when the ball looked in for all money.

The Mariners pushed to get themselves into the game, and Marco Urena looked dangerous up front, while Gianni Stensness imposed himself on the midfield and helped to turn the tide.

The game remained goalless at the break, but the home side were on top to begin the second half, and Josh Nisbet was at the heart of it as he pulled the strings for the Mariners.

They looked to be ahead just before the hour mark as Dan Bouman was played in behind the Macarthur backline before tucking the ball away, but he was denied his maiden A-League goal once again by the offside flag.

With 15 minutes left to play Urena looked to be through on goal only to be hauled down by Meredith, and the defender was shown a straight red card for the infringement on the edge of the area.

Stensness fizzed an effort just wide of the upright minutes late, and Stajcic went to his bench with the 90th minute approaching, bringing on Michal Janota and Alou Kuol for Bouman and Matt Simon.

With nothing to separate the two teams they headed to extra time, and three minutes in Macarthur took the lead through M’Mombwa’s close ranger header despite the best efforts of Stefan Nigro on the line.

The Mariners looked to respond quickly but clear cut chances were not presenting, and Adam Federici was called into action five minutes from time to save Urena’s effort from a tight angle.

With the hosts pouring numbers forward the Bulls got out on the counter, and Michael Ruhs sealed the game for the visitors in added time.