Super subs cement Mariners place in A-League history books

Central Coast Mariners Football Club secured the 2024 A-League Championship trophy on a night that will live long in the memory in Gosford.

The Mariners, as they have done on a number of occasions this season, left it late, but the never say die attitude of the squad coupled with a few super-subs from A-League Coach of the Year Mark Jackson ignited an unlikely comeback against Melbourne Victory.

It was a cagey first half, as was expected in such a huge game between two of the best defensive teams in the A-League. Danny Vukovic was forced into one strong save down to his right, whilst Christian Theoharous’ unmet cross was the Mariners’ best moment.

Melbourne Victory hit the front five minutes into the second half, Jason Geria popping up on the edge of the box and striking a rare goal into the top corner, giving Vukovic no chance.

Tony Popovic’s men were aiming to play the party-poopers for the second match running after they broke Wellington hearts in the semi-final second leg last week, and it looked like Geria’s strike had done the same again, until the 90th minute when Ryan Edmondson arrived on the edge of the box and drilled home a roof-raising equaliser.

The Mariners were now in the ascendency heading into extra time but still needed a hero, who else but Miguel Di Pizio to pop up and add to his growing catalogue of massive Mariners moments.

Di Pizio netted late against Terengganu earlier in the season, a goal which proved vital in our AFC Cup progression, then netted a brace of the bench against Abdysh-Ata Kant to send us to the AFC Cup Final.

Before today, however, he only had one A-League goal to his name, the 96th minute a fine time to double that tally, a composed finish from Ronald Barcellos’ (another substitute) cut-back. Just a minute prior to Di Pizio’s magic moment at the other end, was an equally important recovery tackle from Dan Hall to deny Ben Folami.

The Mariners defended brilliantly as Melbourne Victory piled on the pressure in hope of sending the game to a penalty shootout and Edmondson broke away deep into injury time, with the options to take it to the corner or square to Nisbet, the 23-year-old opted to go alone and curled beyond Paul Izzo to finish the game and crown the Mariners back-to-back Champions.