Mariners surge past Adelaide, book ALM GF berth
The Central Coast Mariners will play in an A-League Men grand final for the first time since 2013 after surging to an emotional 2-0 win over Adelaide United.
Buoyed by 20,000 fans at a packed-out Central Coast Stadium, the first time in the Mariners' history that they had sold out the venue, quickfire goals from Samuel Silvera and Marco Tulio just after halftime broke the Reds' resistance and lifted the hosts to a 4-1 aggregate win over the semi-final's two legs.
The competition's youngest side will now try to finish their fairytale season in an ALM decider against Melbourne City at Bankwest Stadium on June 3.
City will be chasing a premiership/championship double while playing in a fourth straight grand final.
Their dominating streak beginning in the same season the Mariners recorded a fourth wooden spoon in five campaigns.
"I think 15,000 was probably the most I played (in front of) under here and it was a great atmosphere," said Mariners boss Nick Montgomery.
"(Then) the crowds dwindled, the form dwindled.
"When you're bottom of the league nobody wants to come and watch you … nobody wants to come and watch a team that's bottom of the league.
"Coaches came in and whinged about the budge, (saying) this club can't compete with the big teams – numerous coaches said that and felt that.
"I never believed that, I came from a working-class background where if you put your faith into young people they'll give you everything back and you saw that tonight."
Befitting the game's mammoth stakes, both sides started at a blistering pace.
But it was the Mariners who were able to hold their early energy and take control of the contest, coming agonisingly close to opening the scoring with a series of chances to Nectarios Triantis, Tulio, and Brian Kaltack.
Three minutes into the second stanza, the breakthrough arrived when Jason Cummings drove inside from the right and cut the ball back for Silvera to score and send the home crowd into raptures.
"In games like this, it's about when you're on top you've got to make the most of it," Adelaide boss Carl Veart told reporters.
"We had some great passages tonight and we just couldn't get that goal.
"If we get that goal, the game is different."
It was 2-0 four minutes later when Tulio pounced on the rebound of a sharp Joe Gauci save and fired in from a near-impossible angle.
Desperately searching for a way back in, Adelaide coach Carl Veart moved to introduce Nestory Irankunda to the fray as his side began to hurl themselves forward in desperation.
The teenage sensation lashed an effort into the post in the 70th minute but neither he nor his veteran teammates could find a way to spoil the Mariners' historic evening.
"The boys showed real discipline," said Montgomery.
"To get a clean sheet is something I'm really proud of."