Arnold sees positives

Graham Arnold and the Central Coast Mariners are understandably devastated by their dramatic last-gasp Grand Final lost to the Roar, but already the three-time Hyundai A-League runners-up are picking out the positives.

Graham Arnold and the Central Coast Mariners are understandably devastated by their dramatic last-gasp Grand Final lost to the Roar, but already the three-time Hyundai A-League runners-up are picking out the positives.

It seemed impossible that the Mariners wouldn't be Hyundai A-League Champions after they followed up a scoreless 90 minutes of regular time with goals to Adam Kwasnik and Oliver Bozanic in the first half of extra time.

But the Roar have paid little attention to expectations this season, and two goals in the final five minutes of extra time was enough to put them through to a shootout, where experienced keeper Michael Theoklitos took care of the rest.

Heartbroken and rueful in defeat, Arnold paid the all-conquering Roar their dues, and was gracious enough to recognise how special the game had been, despite being on the losing end.

"Full credit to Brisbane. They're resilient, they can always come back and we switched off for a split second and we paid the price," said Arnold.

"They got a goal with three minutes to go then scored with the last kick of the game. The last kick of the game."

"What a fantastic game. What a fantastic spectacle for the A-League. The game has been crying out for something positive this year, and I think that was the most positive thing."

And although bitterly disappointed to have come so far only to be denied at the last hurdle, Arnold was able to sift through the wreckage and find positives in his side's effort on the night, and solace through their achievements in a season that most critics predicted they would be easy-beats.

"I have to say I'm extremely proud of the boys. You blokes sitting here tipped us to come ninth or 10th (at the start of the season) and we have just been beaten in a penalty shootout in a Grand Final," he said.

"We claimed an Asian Champions League spot, so it's been a hell of a good season."

"We were one kick away from winning the competition."

While it's hard to top the financial rewards tied in with a place in the Asian Champions League, of equal import to the Mariners has been the unearthing of a number of teenage stars.

Seventeen-year-old Mustafa Amini may not have had his desired impact on Grand Final Day, but has had an eye-catching season that holds promise of a fantastic career to come.

Bernie Ibini-Isei, 18, came on late in proceedings and made an immediate impact, revelling in the big-game atmosphere, firing off two well-struck shots on goal and providing the Mariners with some much-needed offensive spark.

But perhaps the best discovery from the Mariners' youth brigade has been Joe Marston Medal winner Matthew Ryan, who capped off a fantastic season with his man-of-the-match performance.

"It's been a very good season; we have developed an outstanding goalkeeper, we had Bernie an 18-year-old and another 17-year-old (Amini) on the field (tonight) - it's been a good year for us," said Arnold.

"(Ryan) was superb. (He's a) great kid. He said sorry after the game. I said 'what for?'."