The Central Coast Mariners’ fourth Hyundai A-League season has ended in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Queensland Roar in the Minor Semi Final – 2nd Leg at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium this evening.
The Central Coast Mariners- fourth Hyundai A-League season has ended in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Queensland Roar in the Minor Semi Final – 2nd Leg at Brisbane-s Suncorp Stadium this evening.
Needing to overturn the 2-0 deficit they faced after conceding defeat in the opening leg at Bluetongue Stadium a week ago, the Mariners were again outclassed by a slick Roar outfit, whose goals came from Mitch Nichols and Matt McKay, with Nik Mrdja responding for the visitors.
With the odds stacked against the Central Coast from the outset, emerging from the Queensland capital with a positive result was always going to be a considerable task and it proved to be so for the yellow and navy over the course of ninety tough minutes in slippery conditions.
As the first team eliminated from the 2009 Finals Series, the Mariners- focus now turns to the club-s maiden AFC Champions League campaign, which begins in just under one month-s time against Korean FA Cup winners Pohang Steelers.
“After their first goal went in, a lot of our belief went out the window and we were basically hanging on until half time,” said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna after the match.
“After their second goal, basically it was gone then, but then we started looking for the ball, wanting the ball, getting wide, keeping possession a bit and with a wee bit more luck we could have got an equaliser.
“But we can-t keep blaming luck, Queensland capitalised on our mistakes like the good team that they are – no complaints, they were the better team over two legs and deserve to go through.”
The Mariners- desire to return to the style of play that earned them their former glories saw McKinna unfurl a starting eleven that featured nine players that have been with the club since its inaugural season.
Rather than throw caution to the wind, as was expected by many, McKinna opted for a more measured approach that was exemplified by his choice of midfielders – Nigel Boogaard, Dean Heffernan and Matthew Osman occupying positions advanced from their regular homes in defence.
Initially, this seemed to work for the visitors, who dominated early possession and perhaps chances, with Dylan Macallister-s far post header countering Danny Vukovic-s pair of telling stops at the other end.
As has become unfortunately commonplace in recent times, however, the Mariners surrendered their advantage soon after coming close themselves – Nichols edging home Massimo Murdocca-s drive on 21 minutes to all but sink what had been a spirited yellow and navy challenge to this point.
Deflated, the Mariners continued to pressure the Queensland goal in search for their first in four starts and made subsequent changes at the break to reflect their now desperate situation.
Mrdja and Sasho Petrovski were each introduced at the expense of Andrew Clark and Macallister, but before either could make a significant impact, McKay slotted the Roar-s second to ultimately put the outcome of the tie beyond any doubt.
Mrdja-s solid left footed drive from the fringe of the penalty area on 64 minutes – his third goal of the season and the Mariners- first since early January – presented the Mariners with a slight glimmer of hope and one that they looked determined to capitilise on thereafter.
With their goal scorer threatening and Adrian Caceres adding a spark off the bench, the Mariners ensured that they didn-t see out their Premiership defence with a whimper and perhaps deserved more from a character filled final half hour.
“We-ll be sitting down tomorrow to start our planning for the AFC Champions League and there-s not going to be a lot of down time,” said McKinna.
“We-ve got a big four months ahead of us now and now that we-re out of the Finals Series, we-ll look at our options.
“We-ll freshen the boys up a bit, after the last few weeks their heads will be down a bit, but there-s no use dwelling on it, we have to get over our last five weeks and take the positives out of the last 35 minutes from tonight and move forward.”
The Mariners will next be in action in a competitive fixture for the kick off of the AFC Champions League 2009 at Central Coast Stadium against Korean FA Cup winners Pohang Steelers on Wednesday, 11 March.
Ticketing information for Mariners Members and supporters will be made available in the coming weeks.
Central Coast Mariners 20. Danny Vukovic (gk), 5. Bradley Porter, 7. John Hutchinson, 8. Dean Heffernan, 11. Dylan Macallister (9. Nik Mrdja 46-), 13. Paul O-Grady, 15. Andrew Clark (22. Sasho Petrovski 46-), 16. Nigel Boogaard (10. Adrian Caceres 61-), 17. Matthew Osman, 18. Alex Wilkinson, 19. Matt Simon
Unused Subs 2. Andre Gumprecht, 30. Andrew Redmayne (gk)
Yellow Cards Boogaard 38-, O-Grady 45-, Heffernan 80-, Hutchinson 85-
Red Cards None
Goals Mrdja 64-
Queensland Roar 1. Liam Reddy (gk), 2. Andrew Packer, 3. Luke Devere, 4. Craig Moore, 7. Michael Zullo, 8. Massimo Murdocca, 9. Sergio Van Dijk, 15. Matt McKay, 16. Hyuk-Su Seo, 17. Mitch Nichols (33. Henrique 76-), 19. Isaka Cernak (10. Charlie Miller 62-)
Unused Subs 6. David Dodd, 14. Ben Griffin, 20. Griffin McMaster (gk)
Yellow Cards None
Red Cards None
Goals Nichols 22-, McKay 49-
Referee Peter Green