What: A-League Grand Final
Who: Brisbane Roar vs Central Coast Mariners
When: Sunday 13th March, 2011, 06:00 UK Time
Where: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia

The Australian A-League Grand Final is contested after a playoff finals series that gave the top six teams a chance to make it to the season’s showcase. For the fifth straight campaign the sides that finished first and second in the regular season have made it to the Grand Final decider.

Brisbane on the Verge of Glory

Brisbane are favourites in every sense of the word, having swept all before them in a record breaking season to finish top of the pile with a record points haul, unbeaten sequence and goals scored. Come the end of season awards, their coach Ange Postecoglu, won Coach of the Season and Michael Theoklitos won Goalkeeper of the Year whilst the Player’s Union chose seven Roar players in their Team of the Year. Needless to say, Brisbane have been much admired by both their peers and the public at large.

Coach Postecoglu faced a tough time of it when he took this post, but has come through with flying colours and it is fair to say that even if Brisbane lost this Grand Final they would be able to look back at this season and consider it a success in every sense, with wins for footballing panache, entry to next years Asian Champions League guaranteed and one of the healthier fan bases in the league. That said, getting this far and not putting the icing on the cake would be a shame. For Postecoglu too, winning would mean joining the greats of Australian football in having won three championships.

There is no doubt Brisbane are the form team going in to this contest and a fine record against their opponents will do much to bolster their confidence. This season so far the duo have met five times, and Brisbane have won three and drawn the other two. With home advantage, Brisbane will be expecting to take home every prize they can this season.

Mariners Looking to Sneak a Win

Central Coast Mariners have one big advantage going in to this final: No one expects them to win. In fact for long periods of the season no one even expected them to be here, languishing some points off the top with games in hand. However, coach Graham Arnold never gave up, he never lost faith in his program of introducing youngsters as early and frequently as possible and he worked intelligently with what he had, never letting injuries set them back.

They may not have the attacking flair of Brisbane, but in Matt Simon and Adam Kwasnik, Central Coast do have two tidy finishers who can ruffle any defence and both have big-game experience to boot. With the near peerless Patrick Zwaanswijk in the centre of defence ahead of Young Footballer of the Year, goalkeeper Matthew Ryan, there is a good combination of youth and experience running through the spine of the team. Arnold can call upon 17-year old Mustafa Amini in the centre of the park, offset by battle hardened Rostyn Griffiths; Central Coast are not only the second best team in Australia right now, but also the one most likely to improve next season.

Coach Arnold may look at his record against Brisbane Roar with regret, having been in good positions to finish them off more than once, but each time the Roar machine powered up a gear in self belief and surged back into the match. If Arnold can find a way to not only take the initiative, as his team so often do, but to keep it too, then the Mariners have a real chance. With two attacking side, this Grand Final for purists will do no harm to the Central Coast’s reputation for good football, but a third Grand Final appearance without a win would start to suggest that they have some way to go before they stop just making up the numbers.


Recent form

Brisbane Roar:
North Queensland Fury 1-2 Brisbane Roar (08/02, A-League Season)
Brisbane Roar 4-0 Gold Cost United (12/02, A-League Season)
Central Coast Mariners 0-2 Brisbane Roar (19/02, A-League Finals)
Brisbane Roar 2-2 Central Coast Mariners (26/02, A-League Finals)

Central Coast Mariners:
Central Coast Mariners 1-0 Newcastle Jets (13/022 A-League Season)
Central Coast Mariners 0-2 Brisbane Roar (19/02, A-League Finals)
Brisbane Roar 2-2 Central Coast Mariners (26/02, A-League Finals)
Central Coast Mariners 1-0 Gold Coast United (05/03, A-League Finals)

Players to watch

Brisbane Roar – Thomas Broich: The midfielder has been a revelation this season and is one of the better imports to grace the A-League. The German has been in rich form, setting up goals for fun, and has the competitive edge following successful spells in the Bundesliga. His ability to laugh off suggestions that the Mariners had scored a psychological victory with their 2-2 draw in the semi-finals shows his confidence. “If we get the championship, then they can still be psychological champions, I don’t mind that.” Expect Broich to be pulling the strings all night.

Central Coast Mariners – Michael McGlinchey: An ever-present this season, McGlinchey is central to how the Mariners tick. In their narrow midfield, the ability to find space and exploit it is key and he has certainly been essential to widening the pitch and making opposing defences turn on themselves. Though not prolific, McGlinchey is always involved in the play and keeps running until the final whistle, whilst also adding the bite in midfield that makes his opponents think twice before beating him.

Match Prediction

It is a hard ask for the Mariners to win here but it is not impossible. Since there is no real expectation that they will win, and no shame in losing, the pressure is certainly off and the few extra cameras buzzing round their set-up will be a bit of welcome attention.

By contrast Brisbane have set about turning their home city orange and with a likely sell out on the cards this looks set to be the most attended Australian Grand Final of all-time. How they deal with the pressure might be a factor, though they have taken it all in their stride thus far.

Central Coast do have enough about them to make a real game of this. If they can keep the scores level, as they’ have done before, and stretch the game, their younger legs might just snatch it, but it is a big ask. Brisbane to win in normal time.

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