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Central Coast Mariners win A-League, complete treble

Published at :May 25, 2024 at 7:42 PM
Modified at :May 25, 2024 at 7:42 PM
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Central Coast Mariners won the A-League last season as well.

Central Coast Mariners are 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League Champions, after a dramatic 3-1 comeback win over Melbourne Victory at Industree Group Stadium on Saturday night.

Jason Geria opened the scoring for Victory in the 50th minute with a thumping strike into the top-left corner but in the first minute of second-half stoppage time, Mariners substitute Ryan Edmondson snared a dramatic equaliser to ignite the majority of the 21,379-strong crowd – an all-time record attendance at Industree Group Stadium.

Seven minutes into the first period of additional extra time, Miguel Di Pizio scored the goal that set the Mariners on course to the Championship, and became the youngest goalscorer in the history of Australian national league Grand Finals with a composed finish to a clinical Mariners attack.

After claiming the lead the Mariners never relinquished it, with Ryan Edmondson’s second of the night deep into the second half of extra-time sealing the club’s second-consecutive Championship title – and a third trophy in 2023-24, adding to the Premiers Plate and the AFC Cup title. They become the first Australian side ever to win a treble.

For Victory head coach Tony Popovic, Saturday’s agonising defeat extended his winless record in Isuzu UTE A-League Grand Finals to five, and denied the club an equal-league record fifth Championship title.

The first 15 minutes flew by in Gosford before the first big chance of the night presented to Daniel Arzani and Victory.

Arzani intercepted an attempted clearance from Danny Vukovic and drove toward goal, sized up the target and lashed a shot straight back at the Mariners keeper that fizzed past the left-hand goalpost.

The action whizzed from end to end before a significant delay due to a nasty collision of heads between Victory defender Damien Da Silva and Mariners striker Alou Kuol; the two players received lengthy treatment but both returned to the field of play heavily bandaged.

Arzani replicated his early chance just before half-time when he received possession in a near-identical area just outside the box, and his second attempt looked destined for the bottom-left corner if not for Vukovic’s superb glovework.

In first-half stoppage time, Victory midfielder Ryan Teague made a charge into the box to meet a Jason Geria cross and made pure contact with a header in between a sea of bodies; Vukovic could only stand and watch as the ball drifted just wide of the target.

After seven added minutes, referee Alex King blew his whistle to draw an end to a first half in which the visitors created the best attacking chances, and denied the Mariners space to create any meaningful opportunities of their own.

Victory burst out of the blocks in the second half, and after left-back Adama Traore put Vukovic to the test with one attempt on target, it was right-back Jason Geria who broke the deadlock with another, rifled attempt into the top-left corner from the edge of the penalty area.

Geria – Victory’s only player with prior Grand Final experience on Saturday night – scored just his third Isuzu UTE A-League goal in some style, to the joy of the thousands of away fans in the house at Industree Group Stadium.

Victory’s opening goal sparked the Mariners into offensive action but time and again, the visitors showed immense defensive resolve to keep the Premiers at bay.

Central Coast midfielder Josh Nisbet was subdued throughout the game but threatened to grab an equalising goal when he received a rare opportunity to get on the ball in the final third. Nisbet’s shot from distance took a wicked deflection on its way toward goal but didn’t trouble Paul Izzo in Victory’s goal.

But in the first minute of added time, the Mariners found their elusive equaliser – and Nisbet was at the heart of the play that led to the dramatic leveller.

The Mariners star laid a deft pass into space on the edge of the area for substitute Ryan Edmondson who pounced, and dispatched a clinical strike past Izzo to force extra time.

Just seven minutes into the additional 30, Di Pizio’s historic goal put the home side on top for the first time in the title decider.

The scenes of celebration were truly remarkable after the 18-year-old became the youngest-ever Grand Final goalscorer in Isuzu UTE A-League history; substitute Ronald Barcellos provided the assist and Di Pizio did the rest as the home side took a 2-1 lead seven minutes into extra time.

Having navigated the majority of additional extra-time with their 2-1 lead intact, the Mariners made their Championship triumph official when Edmondson scored a sealing third goal for the home side at a rocking Industree Group Stadium.

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