Melbourne defeat sets up grand finale

The Central Coast Mariners’ 3-0 loss to the Melbourne Victory at the Telstra Dome this evening has set the scene for a gripping final round of the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season.

The Central Coast Mariners- 3-0 loss to the Melbourne Victory at the Telstra Dome this evening has set the scene for a gripping final round of the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season.

Three goals over seven second half minutes ensured that the Mariners- Finals Series ambitions will be decided on the final day of the season, when the yellow and navy will face fellow Finals Series aspirants Adelaide United at Bluetongue Stadium.

It could have and perhaps should have been a much different story for a valiant Mariners side that looked capable of emerging from the intimidating Telstra Dome atmosphere with at least a share of the spoils.

Dominant in terms of possession and chances up until the hour mark, Daniel Allsopp, Carlos Hernandez and Archie Thompson turned the tables when each finding the back of the net midway through the second stanza to confirm the Mariners' sixth defeat of the campaign and their first loss on the back of another.

The Mariners' clash against Adelaide United at Bluetongue Stadium on Sunday, 25 January will now almost certainly seal the yellow and navy's Hyundai A-League 2008/09 fate, with a Finals Series berth far from a formality for the reigning Premiers.

"It was those seven minutes that killed us, we felt well on top up to that point," said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna after the match.

"Apart from the first fifteen minutes where they put us under a bit of pressure, we dealt with Melbourne really well and dominated them.

"After that seven minute period the game was gone, but before that we felt that it was well in our grasp."

Perhaps the Mariners- best throughout the first half was midfield talisman Andre Gumprecht, who having celebrated the birth of his daughter Amelia in the early hours of the morning showed great spirit to overcome a nasty head clash and produce a performance of quality.

Gumprecht was involved in nearly all of the Mariners- attacking movement and in combination with fellow starting eleven newcomer Andrew Clark, provided a flurry of crosses into the penalty area that tested the Victory defence.

The Mariners- most likely outlet for a goal looked to be from corners, with Bradley Porter bamboozling Melbourne goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos on more than one occasion with wicked centres close to goal.

Porter-s combination with midfield partners Gumprecht and John Hutchinson was a feature of the Mariners- play throughout the opening stanza and with Dylan Macallister, Nik Mrdja and Matt Simon each as hungry as the other up front, the Mariners looked a team capable of ending Melbourne-s four-match winning run at the Telstra Dome.

The visitors began the second half with even greater purpose and were it not for an uncharacteristic miss from Matt Simon in front of goal after some sublime lead up from Porter and Hutchinson, the Mariners could well have built on an early advantage.

Simon-s chance was not the Mariners- sole opportunity of the half, however, with Mrdja coming close with a typically fierce left footed drive from the fringe of the penalty area that flew past the far upright.

What dominance the Mariners had enjoyed was quickly forgotten in the space of seven devastating minutes midway through the half, however, when the Victory underlined their class with a trio of telling strikes.

Firstly, Allsopp was on the receiving end of a well-weighted Thompson cross before Hernandez slammed home a stunning free kick from the edge of the penalty box.

With the Mariners barely able to draw breath, Thompson made it three on 75 minutes with an elegant finish from close range after finding space behind the yellow and navy backline.

Dean Heffernan-s dismissal late in the match, combined with Andrew Clark-s earlier suspension due to recieving his fifth caution of the campaign, added to what quickly became a miserable outing for McKinna-s charges, who must now regroup to mount a late bid for a third Finals Series berth.

"The last two games, we feel as though we should have won them - last week we conceded four bad goals, this week it was three," said McKinna.

"We shouldn-t be relying on Adelaide beating Wellington, fingers crossed that they get a good result but we-ve made it hard for ourselves to make it into the Finals Series."

The Mariners will be back at their Bluetongue Stadium home on Sunday, 25 January to host AFC Champions League finalists Adelaide United in the final regular season round of the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 campaign. Kick off is at 7pm.

Tickets for this match are on sale from Ticketek outlets, from the Ticketek website - www.ticketek.com.au, or via phone on 132 849.

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 20. Danny Vukovic (gk), 2. Andre Gumprecht, 4. Pedj Bojic (13. Paul O-Grady 82-), 5. Bradley Porter, 7. John Hutchinson, 8. Dean Heffernan, 9. Nik Mrdja (22. Sasho Petrovski 74-), 11. Dylan Macallister, 15. Andrew Clark (10. Adrian Caceres 72-), 18. Alex Wilkinson, 19. Matt Simon

Unused Subs 30. Andrew Redmayne (gk)

Yellow Cards Clark 44-, Hutchinson 80-, Porter 90-+3 Red Cards Heffernan 87- Goals None

Melbourne Victory 1. Michael Theoklitos (gk), 2. Kevin Muscat, 3. Michael Thwaite, 5. Sebastian Ryall, 9. Daniel Allsopp, 10. Archie Thompson, 11. Ney Fabiano (16. Carlos Hernandez 59-), 12. Rodrigo Vargas, 14. Billy Celeski, 15. Tom Pondeljak, 22. Nick Ward (8. Grant Brebner 90-+2)

Unused Subs 17. Jose Luis Lopez, 20. Mitchell Langerak (gk)

Yellow Cards None Red Cards None Goals Allsopp 68-, Hernandez 71-, Thompson 75-

Referee Peter Green Crowd 24,003