Mariners narrowly miss out on home Grand Final

The Central Coast Mariners will have the chance to qualify for the Hyundai A-League 2011 Grand Final in front of their home fans after a 2-all draw with Brisbane Roar in the second leg of their Major Semi Final at Suncorp Stadium tonight, giving the Roar a 4-2 aggregate win and the right to host the season’s showpiece.

The Central Coast Mariners will have the chance to qualify for the Hyundai A-League 2011 Grand Final in front of their home fans after a 2-all draw with Brisbane Roar in the second leg of their Major Semi Final at Suncorp Stadium tonight, giving the Roar a 4-2 aggregate win and the right to host the season-s showpiece.

The Mariners gave themselves a great chance to turn around their two goal deficit and be the first team through to the decider, when an own goal to Matt Smith and a stunning strike by Oliver Bozanic gave the Mariners a 2-nil lead at half time and cancelled out Brisbane-s advantage, before Thomas Broich and Henrique secured the Roar-s right to host the Grand Final.

“I don-t look at it as 2-2 because we had to open up and go for it in the last ten minutes. We took Rostyn (Griffiths) off and went man on man in midfield and then put Patrick (Zwaanswijk) up front in the last five minutes, we had to get the third goal, but overall I think it was psychological win for us,” said Mariners Head Coach Graham Arnold.

“The last three times, even on the weekend when we lost 2-nil, the statistics I-ve done on our wide angled video we have had 30 (shots on goal) to their 12 and it was our finishing that let us down in the 2-nil loss. Tonight again we had our chances but they-re on a roll and we have to forget it now and move on.”

Needing goals to give themselves hope of being the first team into the decider, the Mariners showed their attacking intent from the outset, Michael McGlinchey breaking free down the right and delivering for Adam Kwasnik, who laid off for McBreen to shoot at Michael Theoklitos from a tight angle three minutes in.

Even the defenders were getting in on the act, Patrick Zwaanswijk venturing forward to blast a fierce driver over the bar from 18 yards, while Patricio Perez had a great chance to open the account on 16 minutes.

Kwasnik fed Pedj Bojic who played Perez in, but the diminutive Argentine narrowly fired over under pressure from the Roar defenders.

Mathew Ryan-s first real involvement came at the 18 minute mark, smartly getting down to deny Kosta Barbarouses, after the Kiwi international was put through one-on-one.

His next save was somewhat more straightforward, as Barbarouses weakly shot at the teenager after finding space on the right.

Matt McKay fired a first time effort over with an open goal after Ryan ventured out to punch clear a dangerous ball in only as far as the Brisbane skipper and the hosts seemed to have gained the momentum, with Matt Smith heading a Thomas Broich corner wide, before McBreen produced a potentially tie-saving defensive header to clear a goal-bound Jean Carlos Solorzano header off the line.

That may have inspired the Yellow and Navy, as they embarked on a two minute period which would completely change the course of the two legged Grand Final qualifier.

First Perez released Bozanic down the left, and his delivery found McBreen, who fired viciously at Theoklitos from an acute angle, and his parried clearance went straight into the path of Smith, who watched helplessly as it cannoned off him and into the back of the net.

With half of the deficit wiped, the Mariners wouldn-t have to wait long for parity to be restored, Perez again instrumental as he fed Bozanic, the Avoca junior unleashing a powerful drive past Theoklitos and into the bottom corner, sending shockwaves through much of Suncorp Stadium, save for the pockets of Yellow and Navy dotted around the ground, who were, of course, in raptures.

The Mariners still needed another goal to wrap up the tie in normal time though, and Kwasnik went within centimetres of heading home four minutes into the second half, but couldn-t quite get high enough to meet Bozanic-s cross.

McBreen flicked a Bozanic throw in at Theoklitos and Kwasnik fired wide from distance as the Central Coast kept pushing for a third against a shell-shocked Brisbane outfit.

But on 63 minutes the dynamic of the tie would change yet again, after Thomas Broich managed to sneak a shot inside Mathew Ryan-s near post, although replays suggested Ivan Franjic may have come from an offside position as he blocked Bozanic-s attempts to stop Broich-s run.

The goal sparked the hosts, and the 25,000 inside the stadium into life, and Ryan was forced to pull off a fine save just a minute later, after substitute Henrique unleashed from the edge of the penalty area.

The Mariners were no means dead and buried though, Bozanic sent a low shot across the face of goal, while Theoklitos pulled off a spectacular shot to turn a McBreen header around the back post, just as it appeared destined for the back of the net.

On another frustrating night for the Yellow and Navy, Zwaanswijk dived at full stretch in an attempt to head home a good Rostyn Griffiths cross but was just millimetres short, and with ten minutes to go, Graham Arnold saw fit to make the final push for the vital third goal, by replacing defensive midfielder Griffiths with the attacking Bernie Ibini Isei.

A Bozanic free kick missed everyone, and unfortunately for the Mariners, also finished just wide of the back post, and with men forward, Brisbane were able to capitalise, Henrique securing his side-s spot in the Grand Final in the first minute of added time.

The night turned further sour for the Mariners with Pedj Bojic copping a second yellow card for what seemed to be a 50-50 collision with Broich, ruling him out of next Saturday-s home Preliminary Final with either Adelaide or Gold Coast, where the Mariners will be desperate for a near full house to help propel them to a third Hyundai A-League Grand Final in six seasons, and qualification for the 2012 AFC Asian Champions League.

“They were brilliant. I-m very proud of the way we played. I know I keep saying how proud I am of the boys but they were outstanding tonight, I thought that we did exceptionally well. We lost the tie in the first game at Bluetongue. I said the first game was a game of inches, where we hit the post three times, and again it was a game of inches (tonight) with Theoklitos pulling off a world class save (which would have made it) 3-1.

“It was a wonderful performance but if I am disappointed (at anything) it was the two big decisions, the first goal, I need clarification off (FFA Referees boss) Gary Power, for me it was offside, Franjic was offside and he-s come back from an offside position to block Ollie Bozanic so he couldn-t get to Broich.

“I-ve seen Pedj Bojic-s send off on the monitor as well and that-s one player gone for next week for no reason at all. Both had their head down looking at the ball and they both collided, there was no malice in it,” Arnold said.

Captain Alex Wilkinson says despite not getting past Brisbane over two legs, they are confident of getting the ultimate revenge in the Grand Final.

“We-re very confident, there is great team spirit in this group and as Arnie said we will have recovery tomorrow and forget tonight-s result, there-ll be no talk of the Grand Final, we-ll be focussed on next week now, it-s a huge game for us at home against either Adelaide or Gold Coast, both very good teams so it-s going to be a good test for us.

“On tonight, I couldn-t ask for more from the boys, everyone put in a huge shift out there, everyone was out on their feet at the end of the game and that-s all you can ask for, everyone putting in 100%.

“Every time we play them we feel that we can beat them, so I hope we can get one more crack at them now.

“It-s a massive game next week, another shot at the Champions League which would be great for the club. We had a great crowd there last week at Bluetongue and hopefully we can build on that and get a few thousand more through the gates, because it-s going to be a massive, massive game for us, and the more people we can get to Bluetongue the better,” said Wilkinson.

The Central Coast Mariners next match of the Hyundai A-League 2011 Finals Series will be against either Gold Coast United or Adelaide United at Bluetongue Stadium next Saturday, 5 March. Kick-off will be at 7:00pm AEDT and tickets will go on sale to Mariners Members tomorrow morning at 9:00am, the FFA Football Family at 9:00am on Tuesday, and to the General Public at 9:00am on Wednesday. Tickets will be available by CLICKING HERE or by phoning 132 849.

Match Details

Brisbane Roar 2 (Broich 63-, Henrique 90+1-)
Central Coast Mariners 2 (Smith 39-(og), Bozanic 40-)

Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2. Matthew SMITH, 4. Shane STEFANUTTO, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 6. Erik PAARTALU, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 9. Jean CARLOS SOLORZANO (8. Massimo MURDOCCA 74-), 15. Matt McKAY (c), 17. Mitch NICHOLS (10. HENRIQUE 57-), 22. Thomas BROICH, 23. Milan SUSAK.

Subs not Used: 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 12. Matthew MUNDY, 14. Rocky VISCONTE.

Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil

Central Coast Mariners: 20. Mathew RYAN (gk), 2. Daniel McBREEN, 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS (24. Bernie IBINI ISEI 81-), 10. Patricio PEREZ, 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 23. Adam KWASNIK.

Subs not Used: 30. Paul HENDERSON (gk), 7. John HUTCHINSON, 17. Chris DOIG, 22. Mustafa AMINI.

Yellow Cards: McGlinchey 28-, Bozanic 41-.
Red Cards: Bojic 90+3-

Referee: Peter GREEN
Crowd: 25,168 @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.