Mariners hold nerve to seal Premier Plate
Central Coast Mariners clinched the Premier's Plate on the final day of the A-League regular season with a 2-1 win at Wellington Phoenix. The Mariners, dominant for so long in the season, made the difficult trip across the Tasman knowing they had to win to deny surging champions Brisbane Roar from stealing away the trophy.
And while the Roar won 2-1 at lowly Gold Coast United the Mariners tied up the Plate thanks to strikes from John Sutton and teenage striker Bernie Ibini either side of half-time. Leo Bertos grabbed a consolation for Wellington, who finished the season fourth ahead of the finals, on 80 minutes.
Mariners boss Graham Arnold hailed his side's achievement and claimed winning the Premier's Plate was a bigger achievement than winning the Grand Final. The A-League champions are decided by who wins the Grand Final, rather than finishing the regular season top, and Arnold said: "It means everything (winning the Plate).
"I'm old-fashioned in that I think the premiership is more important than the Grand Final because it rewards consistency. It rewards the best team. We're the only team that's gone two seasons and compiled more than 50 points (each campaign). I couldn't be prouder of the players."
Roar had to be content with finishing two points behind the Mariners as they grabbed a late winner at embattled derby rivals Gold Coast.
In what could be United's last ever A-League match, with the club's future hanging on a possible deal between Football Federation Australia and a consortium of investors, they took the lead through Daniel Bowles. But the Roar fought back to claim the win thanks to well-taken goals from Nick Fitzgerald (58) and then George Lambadaridis in injury time.
Sydney FC snuck into the finals places, and dumped the Newcastle Jets out, with a 3-2 win. Sydney produced their best half of football in the first period as Bruno Cazarine's 12th-minute opener was followed by a Joel Chianese double.
The Jets replied through Michael bridges (26) before the break and while Jobe Wheelhouse (84) set up a tense finish the Jets saw their season ended prematurely.