Mariners claim A-Champions-League

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Defending champions Central Coast Mariners outwitted minor premiers Brisbane Roar 2-0 in Saturday night’s battle of the champions at Suncorp Stadium.

The impressive win cemented third spot and a home elimination final for Phil Moss’ side next weekend, meanwhile the Roar will have two weeks to regain their suave.

The Mariners displayed a disciplined and tactically astute performance nearing their best of the season against a full-strength Brisbane.

Eddy Bosnar made the visitors’ intentions clear early on, pile-driving a free kick that Michael Theo somehow kept out with his hands still in tact.
Pre-game, Roar coach Mike Mulvey warned that his team had put in several “sub-par” training sessions during the week and it transpired onto the field.
The Mariners looked the more dangerous throughout the first half and broke the deadlock on 22 minutes, when in-form Bernie Ibini combined with Storm Roux, who fed former Roar player Nick Fitzgerald to score at the near post.
Ibini was at it again six minutes later, setting up Anthony Caceres who smashed home from outside the box.
Brisbane should have pulled one back before the break, only for Dimitri Petratos to hit the post from point blank range after neat lead-up play by Luke Brattan and Matt McKay.   
A first half of clinical attacking and Roar-like combination play from the Mariners was followed by a measured, counter-attacking approach in the second 45.  
Fitzgerald had the chance to all but wrap up the result within minutes of the restart, but he blasted high as the ball sat up for him inside the box.
Brisbane rarely broke through the Mariner wall, not managing a shot on goal until the 60th minute – coinciding with a Besart Berisha disallowed goal for offside.
It wasn’t to be for the Melbourne-bound Albanian, as he struck the upright late on, Brisbane’s cutting edge alluding them two weeks out from a home qualifying final.
Mulvey lamented the performance down to the lack of purpose in the game, with Brisbane having already wrapped up the minor premiership three weeks ago.  
“We won the league by a streak and we won it three games ago and we’ve played three dead rubbers,” Mulvey said.
“It’s very difficult to keep aggressive intensity when you know there’s no real reward at the end of the night.
“That’s out of our system now. We won’t lose two on the trot at home.”
Phil Moss on the other hand had every reason to praise his troops, after a team performance Jose Mourinho would have been impressed with.
“We nullified their strengths and exploited their weaknesses,” Moss said
“I’m just so delighted with the way the players stuck to the game plan and executed it.
“Everyone knew their jobs and played it out to almost perfection.”
Central Coast must wait to discover their opponents for next week, with Sydney’s result against Perth on Sunday deciding whether the Sky Blues, Adelaide or Newcastle will finish sixth.
Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEO (gk), 2. Matthew SMITH (c), 3. Shane STEFANUTTO, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 7. Besart BERISHA, 11. Liam MILLER (10. HENRIQUE 69’), 13. Jade NORTH, 17. Matt McKAY, 18. Luke BRATTAN (8. Steven LUSTICA 66’), 22. Thomas BROICH, 23. Dimitri PETRATOS
Central Coast Mariners: 3. Joshua ROSE, 5. Zachary ANDERSON, 8. Nick MONTGOMERY (c), 9. Mitchell DUKE, 11. Nick FITZGERALD (29. Matthew SIM 70’), 12. Liam REDDY (gk), 15. Storm ROUX, 17. Anthony CACERES, 20. Bernie IBINI, 25. Eddy BOSNAR (6. Brent GRIFFITHS 46’), 28. Glen TRIFIRO (21. Mile STERJOVSKI 80’)


Crowd: 14, 218

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