The Central Coast Mariners were crowned A-League champions for the 2013 season after recording a 2-0 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers in Sunday’s grand final. The title is the first for the Mariners outfit, after going down in their three previous appearances on the season’s final day.
The win was witnessed by a sold-out crowd at Allianz Stadium and the full-house sign also went up at Strathfield Sports Club as we were a part of a reported record 300,000 people who tuned in to see domestic football’s showpiece event.
Dutchman Patrick Zwaanswijk, 38, became not only the oldest player to play in a national league grand final but also the oldest to score in one when he opened the scoring for the Mariners just on half-time. His first goal of the season could not have come at a better time when he managed to get free of his mark and net a thunderous header from a corner.
Another veteran, Daniel McBreen doubled the advantage in the second-half from the penalty spot, after Wanderers defender Jerome Polenz was judged to have deliberately hand-balled in his box. The expertly taken penalty capped a remarkable season for McBreen, who also claimed the Joe Marston medal for player of the match.
The Mariners win was not without controversy, with the Wanderers having multiple penalty appeals turned down by the referee. There were claims of what appeared to be deliberate hand-ball and a push in the back either side of half-time that could have drawn the Wanderers level, only for the Mariners to extend their lead with a penalty of their own.
Unfortunately despite the overwhelming majority of the crowd wearing red and black, the fairy-tale wasn’t to be for the Wanderers. They went into the grand final as favourites, on the back of the minor premiership and a 13 game unbeaten run but were not able to take their chances on the day and lacked that fabled bit of “luck” you need to win a title.
Mariners’ coach Graham Arnold paid tribute to his players, who he said stuck together despite the ongoing financial turmoil experienced at the club throughout the season. He said the win was the perfect tonic for past disappointments and the side thoroughly deserved to be crowned champions.
Conversely, WSW’s coach Tony Popovic was disappointed with the result but conceded his team were second-best on the day. While he will now be able to reflect on the remarkable achievement of guiding the Wanderers to the Premiers Plate in their debut season, Popovic said the club would use the result as motivation to go one better next year.