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Good things come for those who wait

The Central Coast Mariners are finally A-League champions as Patrick Zwaanswijk and Daniel McBreen both delivered and scored one each to secure the Mariners Grand Final trophy and end the Wanderers fairy tale season.

In front of a capacity crowd of 42,000 people, the A-League Grand Final was shaping up to be the match of the year, with the RBB and the Yellow Army all out in full force. ‘History’ was in no one’s favour as in the 3 encounters these two clubs have had have been a win for both teams and a nil all draw. The Central Coast Mariners, however, have been in three A-League Finals previously and have lost all three, while the Western Sydney Wanderers were playing in their first ever Grand Final – in their first ever A-League season. Pressure was igniting in both teams to make or break history for their club.

The Wanderers stared the game off in a flare saturated Allianz Stadium and within the sound of two very ferocious set of fans in the backdrop. The Wanderers had their first shot at goal within the first minute but it was swiftly cleared away by the Mariners defence.

It wasn’t long before the Central Coast Mariners found their feet as Bojic made a terrific run up the pitch in the 5th minute but his stunning nutmeg and pass to Ibini was wasted as the Mariners number 9 sent the ball into the crowd. Sterjovski also wasted an excellent cross into the area as his chip towards goal just hit the cross bar, a definite shot that should have gone in.

The first 15 minutes was a constant battle which kept both teams hot on their feet. Kwabena Appiah-Kubi kept the Mariners defence busy in the right corner of the pitch but his fancy footwork was cleared on numerous occasions. As a Mariners corner was cleared in the 20th minute, Mark Bridge sent a tremendous kick towards Kresinger who missed it with his head by a millimetre.

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The crowd continued to sing as the away team continued to miss shots which could have easily seen the men in yellow in front. Trent Sainsbury and Bernie Ibini both slipped in front of goal and missed chances which sent shivers up the Wanderers’ spine.

Bojic in the 37th minute didn’t need a team as he charged down the pitch on his own but his efforts came colliding with the mentally and physically strong Wanderers back line which the number 4 had no chance of getting through.

Although the Mariners were controlling much of the first half, the Western Sydney Wanderers continued to thrive for a goal as Appiah- Kubi managed to wing Matthew Ryan and retrieve the ball but, although he dodged the Mariners last line of defence, Ryan’s compatriots soon came to the rescue and cleared away any signs of danger in the 41st minute.

Mariners were not wasting time as they continued to hammer shots towards goal right up to the last minute of the first half – literally. All their handwork eventually payed off as Patrick Zwaanswijk headed home a perfect ball in the 44th minute to score the first goal in the Grand Final. Not only did he score the first goal of the game, but Zwaanswijk scored his first goal of the season as jumped above Kresinger to give the Mariners a well-deserved lead.

8667280065_d9dce800b1_bThe Mariners entered the second half as energetic and determined as they left off in the first. Ante Covic was having his work cut out for him as there was no escaping the Mariners wrath.

Appiah- Kubi, however, was continuing to test the Mariners defence as he swiftly ran through the gaps to pass the ball off to Mark Bridge, but the result was sent away by the men in Yellow once again.

The second half also continued on with the fast tempo and pace fans grew to love in the first half as both teams continued to fight for a goal. Matt Ryan saved a tremendous effort by the Wanderers in the 66th minute as he stretched his limits to narrowly wipe the ball away from the top of the crossbar.

Labinot Haliti was subbed on for Dino Kresinger in the 67th minute and not long after this substitution did the Mariners receive a penalty due to Polenz handling the ball within the box.

Daniel McBreen stealthly took the penalty, sending Covic the wrong way and doubling the Central Coast Mariners lead to 2-0 over the Western Sydney Wanderers with 20 minutes left to play.

As they say, a football match isn’t over until the final whistle has sounded and the Wanderers were living by this as they were unrelenting to leave the game with the current score of 2-0. Mark Bridge was persistently firing down the right side of the pitch but the Superman in Pink wasn’t going to give up his clean sheet.

As time was slipping out of the Wanderers hands, their fans were not giving in as they displayed a mass Poznan around Allianz Stadium. With 10 minutes left to play, the RBB was certainly not calling it a set match.

Although the Wanderers were giving everything they had, they were no match against the Mariners as the final whistle was blown.

Central Coast goalkeeper Matthew Ryan expressed his glorious attitude after he danced in triumph.

“There’s no better feeling in football,” he said. “This victory goes out to the boys who have been here before.”

Mariners coach Graham Arnold also stated that the bad run for the Mariners in A-League Grand Finals is now finally over

“I’m very happy right now,” he said. “We had to learn how to win a grand final the hard way. We used it as motivation, we never wanted to feel like that again.”

Although it has been an absolute fairy tale of a season for the Western Sydney Wanderers, experience overcame the favourites around as the Central Coast finally won the beloved A-League Grand Final. Fourth time is the charm it seems for the Central Coast Mariners to which they finally overcame their taboo and attained the grand prize which, this season, is much deserved.

Congratulations Central Coast Mariners and let the 2013/2014 season roll on!

– Siobhan Pedroza at Sydney Football Stadium. Photos by Peter McAlphine

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