Mariners into A-League grand final - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Mariners into A-League grand final

By Philip Henderson 10/02/2008 08:58:40 PM Comments (0)

Sasho Petrovski ended a seven-game goal drought with a spectacular double as Central Coast overturned a two-goal deficit to steal a remarkable victory over Newcastle in the A-League major semi-final.

The Mariners earned their second trip to the grand final in three seasons after Petrovski scored four minutes into extra time at a near capacity Bluetongue Stadium.

Petrovski earlier scored in the 73rd minute to send the two-legged semi into extra time tied at 2-2.

Central Coast trailed 2-0 after the first leg a fortnight ago, but came storming back to win 2-0 in regulation time - their first win over the Jets in nine meetings - before claiming the tie 3-2 on aggregate.

Adam Kwasnik opened the scoring with a fortuitous goal in the first half which took a wicked deflection off defender Tarek Elrich.

But it was former Sydney FC championship player Petrovski, who before the match had gone nearly two months without scoring, who finished the hero for the home side, hammering home two classic striker's goals to send the Mariners title hopes soaring and Jets' hearts sinking.

After seeming to have one foot in the grand final following the first leg, Newcastle must now somehow pick up the pieces of a devastating loss to play Queensland Roar in the preliminary final at EnergyAustralia Stadium next Sunday.

Minor premiers Central Coast, who lost the inaugural grand final to Sydney FC, will meanwhile begin planning for the decider in Sydney on February 24.

Despite holding a two-goal buffer, Jets coach Gary van Egmond was anything but cautious in his team selection, naming South Korean under-20 international Jin-Hyung Song to start in his A-League debut.

The attacking midfielder had only just received his visa clearance, but was hardly timid in his first outing for the Jets after being booked for a challenge on Alvin Ceccoli in the 21st which forced the Mariners defender from the field with a toe injury.

It was one of two forced substitutions the Mariners had to make in a costly first 30 minutes, with Socceroos squad member Tom Pondeljak also breaking down with a knee injury.

Yet somehow the home side managed to claim the match lead in the 37th minute when a speculative shot from Kwasnik - who did wonderfully well to slice through both Song and Elrich to set up the chance - took a wicked deflection off Elrich to balloon over the head of a helpless Ante Covic and into the net.

It was a fortunate finish, but given the way luck had evaded the Mariners in the first leg, perhaps deserving for Lawrie McKinna's side.

But while McKinna would have been relieved his side were back in the tie, the coach's heart would have sunk just moments from halftime when referee Ben Williams pulled out a card after a challenge on the edge of his box from goalkeeper Danny Vukovic on Joel Griffiths.

Fortunately it was just a yellow - and a harsh one at that given Griffiths had taken a blatant dive that should have instead seen the Jets star booked.

It was perhaps the second piece of good fortune for the Jets after Williams earlier in the half appeared to reach into his pocket after a rash challenge from Matt Thompson on Nigel Boogaard, only to change his mind - saving the defender from a suspension.

Williams was similarly generous with Kwasnik early in the second half after deciding against booking the Mariners striker for bringing down Adam Griffiths. Kwasnik would have been banned for the grand final with another card.

Tempers started to boil early in the second half as the Mariners began throwing caution to the wind chasing the goal that would lock up the tie.

Andre Gumprecht and Petrovski both had shots whistle past the outside of the right post, before the two combined for the crucial second goal - Petrovski calmly slotting home from short range after a quality ball from Gumprecht in the 73rd.

Both sides endured nervous moments before the fulltime whistle, but escaped without conceding a goal, before Petrovski again popped up for the winner.

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