Job done in Gosford: Mariners finish third after 2-0 win over Western United

Central Coast Mariners will attack the 2020/21 Finals Series with genuine momentum after beating Western United 2-0 to seal third spot on the table and book a home Elimination Final against sixth-placed Macarthur FC in Gosford. 

Brisbane Roar left the door open for Central Coast to jump into third after losing 1-0 to Sydney FC earlier on Saturday, June 5, and the Mariners took full advantage as left-back Jack Clisby and substitute Marco Ureña scored the all-important goals to guide their side to a third-place finish.

Clisby got Central Coast ahead with a 25th-minute finish, and Mark Birighitti produced a pair of saves to keep United's teenage forward Adisu Bayew off the scoresheet in his first A-League start as a Mariners defence lacking Socceroo Ruon Tongyik looked to stave off a strong push by the visitors for an equalising goal in the second half.

Eight minutes of stoppage time followed a nervous final 15 minutes of regular time at Central Coast Stadium as the home fans watched on through gritted teeth whilst United refused to let go of the chance to level the scores.

But in the 95th minute of play a trio of Mariners substitutes combined to put the result beyond doubt. Matt Hatch sparked a counter-attacking move down the right wing, feeding Ureña into the forward half. The Costa Rican played 17-year-old Jing Reec in on goal, whose shot was saved by Ryan Scott before falling to Ureña to apply the finish.

The home crowd erupted as Ureña rippled the back of the net, putting the result beyond doubt. A 2-0 home win was all the Mariners needed to jump Brisbane into third spot to set up an Elimination Final bout with the Bulls.

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Key Moments

Starting on the left-side of United's attack teenage forward Bayew impressed throughout the opening half of his first A-League start, calling Birighitti into a smart save early doors as he threatened with pace and direct running to trouble the Mariners defence. 

Gianni Stensness looked to break the deadlock with the home side's first chance of the night, firing wide of the mark from outside the box in the 12th minute before Tomislav Uskok fired a long-range volley which sailed toward goal down the other end, dipping on target for Birighitti to tip off the post and away from danger as he deprived the United man a stunning opening goal. 

SAVE: Birighitti - Mariners keeper denies Uskok

Lewis Miller rose to head a Stensness cross on target in the 25th minute and United gloveman Ryan Scott  did well to dive backwards, getting a glove on the ball to poke it over the bar for another Mariners corner.

But Scott's good work came undone from the following ball in from Stensness; Clisby got an initial header on the ball, which deflected off Andrew Durante and back to Clisby to finish off his left boot and put the home side up at Central Coast Stadium.

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GOAL: Clisby - The Mariners are on the scoreboard

The second half began with a heavy collision between Birighitti and Dylan Pierias which resulted in the United speedster's substitution after a lengthy delay in play. Lachlan Wales replaced Pierias as the away side set off in search of the equalising goal at Central Coast Stadium.

Bayew continued his impressive first-half form in the second 45, getting up to meet an Alessandro Diamanti cross floated off the right wing into the box. The teenager headed on target but Birighitti got across to save, dropping onto the goal line with the ball stuck under his body. United players called for the goal to be given, but Birighitti rolled over to reveal the ball stopped on the goal line as the Mariners kept their one-goal lead intact. 

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SAVE: Birighitti - Central Coast's number one can't be stopped

Alou Kuol was given a go from the start by Alen Stajcic, and the young Mariners striker got his chance to break his nine-game scoreless run when Jaden Casella fed him in on goal in the 62nd minute. 

Casella turned the ball over in midfield and dribbled forward to feed Kuol in down the left-hand side of the box, but the striker's final touch lacked a clinical edge as the left-footed strike drifted off target.

A nervous final 15 minutes ensued for the Mariners as the home side failed to find a second goal in Gosford.

It looked as though Daniel Bouman would find the all-important sealer in the 84th minute after Josh Nisbet's lung-busting run took the Mariners forward on a rapid counter attack, but Bouman failed to lift his resulting shot off Nisbet's pass over Scott as the United 'keeper rushed off his line to close the space. 

The Mariners eventually put the finishing touch on a hard-fought home win five minutes into second-half stoppage time. 

Hatch was the instigator of the all-important move, bombing down the right wing before sliding Ureña into attack. Andrew Durante - in the final game of his storied career - was the only man standing in between Ureña and Reec, and the veteran stood no chance of intercepting the pass from Ureña to the teenager to shoot.

Reec's strike was saved by Scott, but tipped into Ureña's path to put the finishing touch on a 2-0 Mariners win.

GOAL: Ureña - The Mariners secure the three points

Next matches - Matchweek 24

Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory
Saturday, June 5 2021
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Kick-off: 7.10pm AEST
Broadcast: FOX Sports 505
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports
Match Centre

Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City
Sunday, June 6 2021
Venue: AAMI Park
Kick-off: 4.05pm AEST
Broadcast: FOX Sports 505
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports
Match Centre