On damp and dreary Tuesday night, the Central Coast Mariners travelled down to Kogarah to face Sydney FC in the FFA Cup semi final.
In what was a tense and tight affair for large parts, history was made when the Mariners found the breakthrough thanks to a Marco Ureña spot kick and managed to hold on to the victory, sending them into their first ever FFA Cup final.
Coming into this match, there was much debate around which team was at the greater advantage. Sydney FC playing their third game in seven days, or Central Coast Mariners playing their first match in 28 days after COVID-19 forced the postponement of four Isuzu UTE A-League matches?
In the opening moments, it was the Gosford side who created the best opportunities as Marco Ureña was unlucky not to see the ball hit the net with Redmayne denying him from the edge of the box after Josh Nisbet pounced on a mistake from Joel King. Shortly after, it was Moresche setting up the Costa Rican, however Sydney FC managed to scramble the ball clear to the frustration of the Mariners.
As the match progressed and the Mariners continued to dominate much of the ball, Sydney FC grew into the contest and began to threaten on the counter attack, however they produced wayward attempts at goal, leaving Mark Birighitti untroubled.
Before the half time whistle, Béni Nkololo was set up following a great team move and was denied his second Mariners goal after Andrew Redmayne smothered the ball from the Frenchman’s fierce low drive.
With persistent rain throughout the interval, when both sides emerged for the second half it presented a further challenge and that was dealing with the slippery surface as well as the tension of a spot in the final on the line.
The Yellow and Navy in their FFA Cup white kit started on the front foot and almost had the lead through Moresche who was denied by an in-form Andrew Redmayne at the tightest of angles on the corner of the six yard box.
Football is a funny game sometimes and with the Mariners in the ascendancy, it was Sydney FC who would create the best opening of the match so far, after Elvis Kamsoba played a beautifully weighted ball through to the pacey Trent Buhagiar, however the Sky Blues striker was denied by the outstretched hand of Mark Birighitti to divert the ball wide of the upright with his body weight going the opposite direction.
Inspired, the visitors pushed on for the breakthrough goal and almost had it if it were not for the heroics of Redmayne once again when he denied Moresche on two occasions.
It looked a certain goal in both instances however the 33-year-old shot stopper stood tall and denied the Brazilian forward leaving perplexed looks across the field as to how the scores remained level despite the Mariners creating chance after chance.
Eventually the Sydney FC resistance would be broken as Lewis Miller knocked the ball past Joel King at left back and drove towards the box, only to be brought down, which left referee Alex King with no choice but to point to the spot.
Up stepped Costa Rican Marco Ureña who went for power over placement and smashed the ball home through the legs of the dancing Redmayne and into the back of the net.
Despite bringing on the wealth of talent that Sydney FC possess in their squad, there would be no dramatic equaliser late on as the defensive pairing of Kye Rowles and Dan Hall commanded the penalty box, leaving Birighitti’s goal free of danger.
When the full-time whistle went, celebrations erupted from the large group of travelling Mariners fans who made the journey down to Kogarah. At the third time of asking, the Central Coast Mariners are finally into an FFA Cup Final and will partake in a final for the first time in nine years.
The Mariners will find out their opponents when Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix clash at a future date, however attention turns from celebration to concentration as preparations begin for Sunday’s Isuzu UTE A-League clash with Melbourne City at Central Coast Stadium.