Mariners to host A-League grand final

A-League Men Semi Final Leg 2 - Central Coast Mariners v Sydney FC
Mariners captain Danny Vukovic celebrates after his side secured a spot in the A-League grand final. Picture: Scott Gardiner/Getty Images

Central Coast Mariners are one win away from securing back-to-back A-League championships and a remarkable treble after earning a grand final berth at the expense of Sydney FC.

The Mariners will host Melbourne Victory next weekend’s championship decider at Gosford’s Industree Group Stadium after beating Sydney FC 2-1 on aggregate in their two-legged semi-final.

Having led 2-1 after the first-leg, the Mariners held on to their advantage with a 0-0 draw in front of more than 20,000 fans in Gosford on Saturday night.

Earlier, the Victory booked its spot in next Saturday’s grand final with a 2-1 extra-time win over Wellington Phoenix at Sky Stadium.

Substitute Chris Ikonomidis scored the Victory’s winner 12 minutes into extra-time after the score was locked at 1-1 at the end of normal time following a late equaliser from Phoenix substitute Oskar Zawada.

Zawada’s goal, which came in the ninth minute of stoppage-time, was in rely to a sizzling 82nd-minute strike from veteran left back Adama Traore that had put the Melbourne side in front.

The Victory – whose goalkeeper Paul Izzo saved a second-half penalty from Phoenix captain Alex Rufer – is now the only team standing in the way of the Mariners’ bid to complete the treble, with reigning champions Central Coast having already won the A-League premiership and the AFC Cup this season.

A-League Men Semi Final Leg 2 - Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory
Victory pair Paul Izzo (left) and Roderick Miranda celebrate their team’s win over Wellington. Picture: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

“There were some crazy moments in the game,” Mariners captain Danny Vukovic told Network 10.

“It might not go down as a classic. There weren’t any goals but it was still an incredible match and we’re so happy to get through.

“We knew if we kept a clean sheet, we’d go through to the grand final and we did that.”

Four yellow cards were issued in a sometimes testy first-half by referee Alireza Faghani, including one to Mariners coach Mark Jackson.

The Mariners coaching staff continued to test the patience of Faghani and it backfired early in the second half when Jackson’s assistant Danny Schofield was banished to the stands after being shown two yellow cards, and a subsequent red card, in the space of 10 seconds for ongoing dissent.

A sulking Schofield then acted petulantly by raising his middle finger at a television camera as he headed down the tunnel.

The Sky Blues thought they had gone ahead midway though the second half when a deflected shot from Robert Mak crossed the goal-line before Mariners defender Brian Kaltak was able to clear the ball to safety.

However, after being advised by the VAR to watch footage of the incident, referee Faghani ruled that Sydney striker Fabio Gomes was offside when Mak had his shot and had interfered with Kaltak’s attempt to reach the ball before it crossed the line.

Just a couple of minutes earlier, Sydney had also had a lucky escape when a shot from Mariners midfielder Brad Tapp was cleared off the line by Sydney skipper Luke Brattan.

Sydney also appealed for a penalty for a handball offence against Mariners defender Jacob Farrell in the 77th minute but his arm was ruled to be in a natural position when it was struck by the ball.

Sky Blues coach Ufuk Talay was unhappy with decisions that went against his team.

“For me the disappointing part was that the game wasn’t decided by the players, it was decided by the officials,” Talay said.

“Sometimes people need to be accountable for the decisions that they make. We rely on the person in the (VAR) box too much.”