A-League: Mariners’ shot at a fairytale treble alive after Sydney FC crumbles in semi final

    Newly crowned premiers and AFC Cup Champions, the Central Coast Mariners have one foot inside the A-League Men grand final.

    Sydney FC were the only team to beat the Mariners since round four and were considered their bogey team, touted as the favourites to take down the reigning champions ahead of the decider.

    Two red cards for Sydney FC to Jack Rodwell and Corey Hollman, the latter being a second yellow, put the home team down to nine for the remaining few minutes.

    Although it was only the first of two legs and the margin wasn’t a big one, the Mariners looked to be clearly the stronger team.

    Mariners star Joshua Nisbet gets the ball past Sydney FC goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne to score a goal during the A-League Men Semi Final. Picture: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

    Mariners coach Mark Jackson said despite the win, he’s not looking too far ahead.

    “We’re not there, we’re far from it,” Jackson said post match.

    “You know, people say it’s one game but Sydney are a formidable team and they’re a dangerous team.

    “And you know what people say, beware of the wounded animal, and we’ve got to be prepared for what they’re going to bring.”

    Joel King’s strike deflected off multiple Mariners defenders, sneaking past Vukovic and handing the Sky Blues the lead.

    Sydney FC’s Anthony Caceres is challenged by Central Coast’s Bradley Tapp. Picture: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

    The half was set to end with Sydney in front but Josh Nisbet did what he does best, putting himself in the middle of the action to capitalise on a deflected shot and levelling the scores at the break.

    Christian Theoharis gifted the Mariners a penalty after a bad tackle from Anthony Caceres in the box, which was expertly converted by Mariners Medallist Mikael Doka.

    Down by a goal and struggling to break through the Mariners’ defence, Sydney were clearly frustrated and it showed in how they played.

    Rodwell was the clear example, with his studs-up tackle on Theoharis worthy of a red card after VAR intervention.

    Sydney FC’s Jack Rodwell receives a red card. Picture: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

    Young Jake Hollman let his frustrations get the better of him late on with his foul on Ronald Barcellos earning him his second yellow card and his marching orders.

    Sydney coach Ufuk Talay said he doesn’t believe frustration was behind the second half send-offs.

    Sydney FC will now be without Rodwell, Hollman and Joe Lolley for the second leg in Gosford, with Lolley picking up a season-ending injury in last week’s win over Macarthur.

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