Heartbreak as Mariners end Gold Coast’s Grand Final dream

GOLD Coast United’s brave attempt to make it to the Hyundai A-League Grand Final has ended in heartbreak after Miron Bleiberg’s men went down 1-0 to Central Coast Mariners in the Preliminary Final at Bluetongue Stadium.

Hyundai A-League Finals Series - Week 3, Preliminary Final At Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford

CENTRAL COAST MARINERS 1 (Kwasnik 75-) GOLD COAST UNITED 0 HT: 0-0 Referee: Strebre Delovski Crowd: 7534

GOLD Coast United-s brave attempt to make it to the Hyundai A-League Grand Final has ended in heartbreak after Miron Bleiberg-s men went down 1-0 to Central Coast Mariners in the Preliminary Final at Bluetongue Stadium.

After defying the odds in their previous two Finals Series matches, United-s dreams of ending their campaign with silverware in just their second season were dashed by an Adam Kwasnik goal 15 minutes from the final whistle.

Following a finals crusade that claimed the scalps of Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United, Gold Coast can be rightly proud of their efforts and again produced a battling performance that came so close to glory.

But there can be only one winner in finals football and Kwasnik-s low drive past Glen Moss proved decisive. When Michael McGlinchey-s shot was blocked, Kwasnik took advantage of his good fortune and pounced on the loose ball to fire home the winner.

United would have levelled the scores two minutes later had it not been for a miraculous double save by Mariners goalkeeper Mathew Ryan. Joel Porter twisted and turned on the edge of the box before firing a curling left-footed drive towards goal only to watch Ryan produce a flying save.

Ryan-s heroics didn-t end there though. When Adama Traore thumped the rebound back towards the goal, the young custodian displayed brilliant reflexes to recover quickly and somehow keep the United man-s shot from hitting the net.

It proved to be the turning point of the game and try as they might Gold Coast couldn-t find the equaliser despite throwing caution to the wind in search of a breakthrough.

One goal was always likely to divide the two evenly-matched sides and Gold Coast were comfortable for the majority of a cagey opening 45 minutes, despite enduring a couple of nervous moments at either end of the half. Danny McBreen almost connected with a cross from Kwasnik as early as the third minute, then just before the half-time whistle Perez went close followed by a miscue from Trent Sainsbury in stoppage time.

In between, Gold Coast enjoyed the bulk of possession and had chances of their own. The best fell to Bruce Djite who fired into the legs of Mathew Ryan after a neat ball from Tahj Minniecon played him in.

The second half began at a higher tempo and nine minutes in Bozanic tested Glen Moss with a rasping low effort that the United custodian tipped around the post at full stretch. Soon after it was Gold Coast-s turn to threaten when Djite stole in behind the home defence only to be thwarted by a fine last ditch save by Ryan.

The Mariners almost hit the front midway through the half when a header from Zwaanswijk rattled the crossbar as the home side enjoyed their best period of the match.

The game began to swing from end to end and Minniecon stung Ryan-s palms with a low drive, but with 15 minutes to go the Mariners struck the vital blow to book a date against Brisbane Roar in next weekend-s Grand Final.

United Head Coach Miron Bleiberg praised his players after the game for what has been another successful season after just two years in the Hyundai A-League.

“I-m proud of my players and I-m proud of what we have achieved this season. We did our best today,” he said.

“They gave everything and in the end the Mariners were the ones who managed to get the vital goal. We are naturally extremely disappointed because we wanted to be there next week, but we are not sore losers and congratulate Central Coast for making it through to the Grand Final. Their goalkeeper had the game of his life and congratulations to him also.

“For a young club we have done well and we would like to say a very big thank you to all the wonderful supporters who travelled here today from the Gold Coast. They were terrific but it just wasn-t to be for us today.”

Gold Coast United: 1.Glen MOSS [gk], 2.Steve PANTELIDIS (24.John CURTIS 79-), 3.Michael THWAITE (c), 6.Dino DJULBIC, 7.Zenon CARAVELLA, 8.ANDERSON, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 11.Bruce DJITE, 13.Bas VAN DEN BRINK (14.Joel PORTER 69-), 15.Tahj MINNIECON (22.Adama TRAORE 78-), 33.Peter PERCHTOLD. Unused subs: 20.Scott HIGGINS [gk], 16.Kristian REES. Yellow cards: None. Red cards: None.

Central Coast Mariners: 20.Mathew RYAN [gk], 2.Daniel McBREEN (19.Matt SIMON 69-), 3.Joshua ROSE, 6.Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 8.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 10.Patricio PEREZ (22.Mustafa AMINI 66-), 11.Oliver BOZANIC, 14.Michael McGLINCHEY, 16.Trent SAINSBURY, 18.Alex WILKINSON (c), 23.Adam KWASNIK (7.John HUTCHINSON 86-). Unused subs: 30.Paul HENDERSON [gk], 24.Bernie IBINI ISEI. Yellow cards: Hutchinson 88-. Red cards: None.