The Central Coast Mariners have secured a place in the Isuzu UTE A-League Grand Final after defeating Adelaide 2-0 (4-1 agg) at Industree Group Stadium on Saturday night.
Having recorded a 2-1 victory in the first leg, the Mariners needed only a draw to progress. In typical Mariners fashion the side opted to qualify in style. In front of a club record 20,059 passionate Central Coast fans the team were able to secure the victory, grabbing a place in our first Grand Final for 10 seasons.
Apart from the result, the match also marked numerous special occasions, with it being midfield maestro Josh Nisbet’s 100th game in a Mariners jersey. The clean sheet also saw captain Danny Vukovic equal the all-time A-League clean sheet record, while also playing his 150th Mariners game.
It was an end-to-end opening 30 minutes to the match, with both sides looking for an all-important opener. James McGarry with the first effort of the game for the Mariners, dragging his shot wide.
The Central Coast continued to push for their first, with Sam Silvera colliding with Joe Gauci outside of the penalty area. The referee opted to call play on, deeming no foul to have been committed.
The young winger continued to be electric with the ball at his feet, regularly being fouled as he looked to drive through Adelaide’s defensive line. A Marco Tulio corner that was flicked on from Beni Nkololo did find the feet of Nectar Triantis in the 25th minute. The central defender unable to get the power behind it, with Gauci comfortably intervening.
Adelaide hit on the counter directly after, with Ben Halloran finding space in the penalty area, getting the ball to Zach Clough. The Englishman striking it across his body, smacking it into the outside of the left hand upright before going out for a goal kick.
Some Mariners magic in the 37th minute almost produced another good chance, with Triantis starting the play with an extremely strong tackle near the halfway line.
The ball fell to the feet of Tulio who outrageously flicked it over Ben Warland’s head, playing a perfectly weighted pass onto Silvera. The winger again fouled outside the penalty area, resulting in Alexander Popovic getting his team’s only yellow card of the game.
The Central Coast almost took the lead off that free kick, with James McGarry whipping in a teasing cross. Brian Kaltak the first to get to it near the back post, unable to sneak it into the goal as it crashed into the side netting.
Neither side ultimately were able to get a go-ahead goal before the break as the action packed first half drew to a close, with the Mariners still ahead by one on aggregate but starting to dominate the game.
The Central Coast came out firing in the second half, scoring twice in the opening seven minutes to relieve the pressure and leave the 20,000 fans in raptures.
The first goal starting off the back of some brilliant work from Josh Nisbet, with the midfielder dropping in to regain the ball from Ryan Kitto, before playing it down the right sideline to Jason Cummings.
The Socceroos striker showed his skill and speed, galloping past Adelaide’s defence before finding himself on the by-line. Cummings cutting it back for the oncoming Silvera, who found the bottom left-hand corner with a delicate left footed shot. The goal taking the Mariners advantage in the tie to two goals in the 48th minute.
After a controlled few minutes, the side were on the attack again, with a James McGarry pass down the left hand side unlocking Adelaide’s defence.
Tulio got on the end of it before breezing past Popovic, cutting the ball across in the hunt of a teammate. The ball deflecting off a defender’s leg and into the line of Gauci, who could only palm it back into the view of Tulio.
The striker drilling it in on his left at an extremely tight angle, beating the Adelaide goalkeeper at his near post. The goal was Tulio’s tenth of the season, giving the Mariner a 2-0 lead in the match and a 4-1 advantage on aggregate in the 52nd minute.
From there the Mariners continued to dominate the game in the hunt for a third, as Adelaide had to push for a goal to get back in the match.
The away side soon opted to bring on Nestory Irankunda, with Mariners head coach Nick Montgomery countering this by substituting on Jacob Farrell.
Christian Theouharous also saw his first minutes of the match, looking dangerous from the very beginning. The winger winning a corner after some brilliant dribbling with his first touch of the game, a warning for what was to come.
Only some Adelaide scramble was able to hold out the Mariners in the 64th minute, with Nisbet, Cummings and Farrell all trying to find a way past Gauci. With eight Adelaide players behind the ball, they were able to keep it out, as they looked to keep their Grand Final hopes alive.
A Christian Theoharous driven shot required further intervention from the Red’s goalkeeper as it looked to tuck into the bottom right corner, before an Irankunda shot came back off the upright in the 70th minute.
Shots from Jason Cummings late flew just over as the provider of the first goal looked to turn scorer of a third, ultimately unable to find the back of the net. The Mariners were able to comfortably see out the final minutes of the match, qualifying for the Grand Final with a 4-1 aggregate win.
The Central Coast now head to our first Grand Final in 10 years, taking on Melbourne City at Commbank Stadium. Kick-off for that game will be at 7:45pm on Saturday, June 3rd, with tickets and information on how to secure your seat to be made available shortly.