Mariners eyes firmly on prize
The Central Coast Mariners gave Premiers Brisbane Roar all they could handle in the second leg of their major semi-final, and skipper Alex Wilkinson says the performance will hold them in good stead should the sides meet in the Championship decider.
The Central Coast Mariners gave Premiers Brisbane Roar all they could handle in the second leg of their major semi-final, and skipper Alex Wilkinson says the performance will hold them in good stead should the sides meet in the championship decider.
Having forfeited a two-goal advantage in the home leg of their major semi-final, the Mariners were all but written off when they arrived at Suncorp Stadium needing a big win to pinch the first place in the grand final.
But the Mariners played with heart and abandon, fearlessly attacking the Hyundai A-League heavyweights to lead by two at half-time and only conceding an equaliser - which saved the Roar's record breaking undefeated streak - when pushing forward in stoppage time.
Wilkinson said that the deficit conceded at Bluetongue in the first leg was his side's undoing, and that if the Mariners beat either Adelaide or Gold Coast in the preliminary final, they would return to face the Roar with full confidence.
"Probably the second goal at home last week killed us, because 2-0 or 2-1 would have been enough for us. But obviously we had to chase the game there at the end and we couldn't keep them out," he said.
"If we didn't have to chase the game we would have won the game. But that's not the way the finals series works.
"I think if it was a normal one-off game, we could have shut up shop and probably won, but we still take a lot of confidence out of that."
"Every time we play them we feel that we can beat them (so) I hope we get one more crack at them now."
Former Socceroos coach Graham Arnold agreed with his captain's assessment and said that despite the end result his side had scored a victory of sorts.
"I don't look at the 2-2 (scoreline). I don't look at the end result, because we had to open up and go for it in the last 10 minutes (when Henrique scored the equaliser)," he said.
"That's the way it is, we had to get the third goal. Overall I think it's a psychological win for us."
"I thought the boys carried out the game plan perfectly... it was a wonderful performance."
Arnold will now fly out to catch the semi-final match between Gold Coast and Adelaide on Sunday, before returning for the Mariners' resumption of training on Tuesday.