Adelaide United will play Perth Glory in the inaugural Westfield FFA Cup final after the Reds overcame Central Coast Mariners 3-2 at Coopers Stadium on Wednesday night.
The visitors held out until five minutes from the break before the Reds pounced twice in four minutes, Sergio Cirio and Ajax Amsterdam target Awer Mabil scoring to give them a deserved 2-0 lead at half-time
Matt Simon came on at the break and pulled a goal back for the Mariners less than three minutes later before Cirio’s second two minutes from time eased the home side’s nerves.
Josh Rose’s stoppage time goal was too little too late as Adelaide progressed to the final and a date with the Glory.
1-0 Cirio (40’) – Marcelo Carrusca stood over a free-kick about 25 yards from goal but instead of shooting played a short pass into Pablo Sanchez, whose first-time pass found Sergio Cirio in behind the Mariners wall. The Spaniard didn’t even need to take a touch, slamming the ball brilliantly into the far corner.
2-0 Mabil (44’) – Cirio was involved again, finding Sanchez on the edge of the Mariners box. With his back to goal the Spaniard spun and played a clever pass into the path of Mabil whose fearsome shot from the right beat Reddy at his near post.
2-1 Simon (48’) – After laying the ball off to Anthony Caceres, another sub at the break, Simon made a run forward and received the ball back before powering towards goal and hitting a powerful low shot across Eugene Galekovic into the bottom corner.
3-1 Cirio (88’) – Mabil, now playing on the left-wing, cut inside onto his right foot and got a fierce drive on target which Reddy could only parry into the path of Cirio to tap in his second.
3-2 Rose (93’) – With time almost up, the Mariners sprung forward with one last attack, with Duke releasing a surging Rose who showed the finishing prowess of a striker, slotting it past an advancing Eugene Galekovic.
It took less than three minutes for Simon to show his ability, dragging the Mariners back into the contest with a superb strike. He was giving the Reds defence all sorts of problems and it looked as though the visitors could stage a comeback. Unfortunately for Mariners boss Phil Moss, Simon could only last another 10 minutes before he was forced off injured, halting Central Coast’s momentum along the way.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
It was one-way traffic in the first half with Adelaide dominating almost every statistic. Josep Gombau’s side enjoyed almost 65 percent of possession, getting nine shots at goal to the visitors’ one, having five corners to nil and making more than 140 more passes.
He might have been on the wrong end of the score line but it would have been a much heavier defeat if not for keeper Liam Reddy. The experienced custodian pulled off a string of fine saves none better than the one to deny Cirio midway through the first half. The Spaniard wrestled his way to just six yards out and poked it towards the corner, with Reddy managing to keep it out with a sublime full-stretch diving save too his right. It led Fox Sports commentator Ned Zelic to describe Reddy as a “panther”.
Having defended for their lives for 40 minutes, Mariners coach Phil Moss would have been happy to get his side in on level terms at the break. But his side again switched off at a set-piece, failing to mark their man at a free-kick allowing Cirio to get the opening goal. It’s the fourth game in a row they have conceded from a dead-ball situation, losing all four matches.
You have to feel for Matt Simon. After such a lengthy period out injured, he looked to be back to his powerful best in his short time on the pitch before he was forced off with a quad problem. Sadly, Simon looks set for another stint on the sidelines.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
The Mariners game plan was obvious from the start. Sit deep with a 5-4-1 formation whenever not in possession and try and frustrate the home side. It was a plan that was always fraught with danger and it was only going to be a matter of time before Adelaide would find a decisive opening. Once the Reds got that first goal just before the break, there was only going to be one winner.
THE FINAL WORD
Adelaide’s early season promise shows no sign of abating and they will be confident of securing the season’s first piece of silverware in the final. Their first assignment though is the visit of a depleted Wellington on Saturday afternoon.
The Mariners have now slumped to four straight defeats and are in need of a result to get their season back on track. It won’t be easy against a resurgent Melbourne City on Sunday.
Adelaide United: Galekovic, Marrone, Boogard, Malik, Elrich, Isaias, Jeggo (McGowan 62’), Carrusca (Konstandopoulos 89’), Mabil, Sanchez (Ferreira 62’), Cirio
Central Coast Mariners: Reddy, Morton, Anderson, J. Rose, Sim, Montgomery, Hutchinson, Duke, Vernes, Kim (Caceres 46’), Mane (Simon 46’), (Cernak 60’)
Scorers: Cirio 40’, Mabil 44’, Simon 48’, Cirio 88’, Rose 93’
Red cards: N/A
Yellow cards: Cernak 73’, Montgomery 82’, Anderson 90’
Conditions: 32C, Humid
Attendance: 4548 @ Coopers Stadium