Mariners book grand final showdown with Victory after controversial ...

The Central Coast Mariners have booked a spot in a second straight grand final after edging past Sydney FC in one of the most contentious A-League Men games in recent memory.

Central Coast Mariners vs Sydney FC - Figure 1
Photo The Sydney Morning Herald

The Mariners, who drew 0-0 in Saturday’s semi-final second leg in Gosford, won the tie 2-1 on aggregate.

But Mark Jackson’s Mariners, who have kept their hopes of a treble alive, survived as a result of two highly debatable second-half decisions from referee Alireza Faghani.

The referee had earlier sent off Mariners assistant Danny Schofield, who reacted by gesturing with his middle finger, in a hotly contested second half.

But the entire Sydney bench could have been dismissed for reacting with fury when two late Faghani calls went against them.

Faghani chalked off a second-half goal for Robert Mak for offside, then waved away claims that Mariners midfielder Max Balard had handled the ball in his own box.

Central Coast Mainers players celebrate making the grand final.Credit: Getty

Sydney boss Ufuk Talay and assistant David Zdrilic were ropeable, but the Mariners hung on in front of a 20,059-strong home crowd to book a place in next Saturday’s grand final back at Gosford against Melbourne Victory.

There were several nervous moments for the home side, the first coming in the seventh minute when Dan Hall clipped Sydney’s Jordan Courtney-Perkins as he ran into the Mariners’ box.

Central Coast Mariners vs Sydney FC - Figure 2
Photo The Sydney Morning Herald

Faghani waved away Sydney’s protests, but the Sky Blues kept coming, Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic thwarting both Hayden Matthews and Fabio Gomes.

Luke Brattan was in the thick of the action for Sydney and, despite receiving lengthy treatment for an ankle injury and struggling to run, the Sky Blues captain soldiered on.

Referee Alireza Faghani shows Mariners assistant coach Danny Schofield a red card.Credit: Getty

The Mariners’ bench was becoming increasingly frustrated with Faghani’s officiating, with the referee brandishing a yellow card to Jackson.

Their protests continued into the second half, with Faghani booking Jackson’s assistant Schofield as he remonstrated with the referee.

Schofield was ordered to return to his seat on the bench and, after mockingly sitting down, was shown a second yellow.

As Schofield trudged towards the tunnel, he flipped the bird down the barrel of the broadcast camera and his send-off – and lewd gesture – will mean he misses next week’s grand final.

Schofield’s dismissal ignited the semi-final, and what followed was one of the most chaotic 60-second spells of the season.

Brattan chested a Miguel Di Pizio backheel off Sydney’s line, and the Sky Blues charged up the other end of the field.


Gomes and Mak combined, and the latter opened fire, his shot creeping over the Mariners line despite the best efforts of defender Brian Kaltak.

Faghani didn’t signal for a goal before opting to inspect the replay.

He then deemed that Gomes had obstructed goalkeeper Vukovic after laying the ball off to Mak.

Still Sydney kept searching for a goal, and they thought they had a penalty when Mak’s cross cannoned off Balard’s arm in the 76th minute.

Sydney were livid and, as the Mariners held on to book their place in the final, midfielder Anthony Caceres was sent off after full-time for spraying Faghani.


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