Central Coast Mariners beat Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 to win Australia’s A-League soccer championship for the first time, preventing their opponents from taking the title in their debut season.
Defender Patrick Zwaanswijk scored his first goal of the campaign in the 43rd minute, while Daniel McBreen doubled the lead with a 68th minute penalty in last night’s grand final, which attracted a sellout crowd of 42,000 at the Sydney Football Stadium. The Mariners had lost the championship match three times before yesterday’s success.
“It’s fantastic,” Mariners coach Graham Arnold said in televised interview. “We had to learn the hard way how to win a grand final. A few boys have been scarred by grand finals. The scar is now gone.”
Central Coast joins Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory, Brisbane Roar and Newcastle Jets as A-League champions since the competition replaced Australia’s debt-ridden National Soccer League in 2005.
The Mariners, based in Gosford about 47 miles north of Sydney, were beaten by Sydney FC in 2006 and Melbourne two years later before losing a penalty shootout to Brisbane in 2011.
The Wanderers, who didn’t even have a name or home stadium a year ago, won 18 of their 27 games to top the regular-season standings ahead of Central Coast and beat defending champion Brisbane in the semifinals to reach the title match.
“It’s been a crazy season for us,” Wanderers captain Michael Beauchamp said at presentation ceremony. “I definitely don’t think this one game defines our season. We gave it all right up to the last minute.”
Funded by Football Federation Australia, the Wanderers were put together in six months after the FFA revoked the A-League license held by Gold Coast United’s billionaire owner Clive Palmer in February 2012. The governing body consulted communities in western Sydney, Australia’s largest manufacturing region, to help choose the club’s name, colors and culture.
Former Socceroos defender Tony Popovic was hired as the inaugural coach in May and the team announced its first three players the following month. Japanese playmaker Shinji Ono signed in September, joining former World Cup-winning forward Alessandro Del Piero of Italy and ex-England striker Emile Heskey as so-called marquee players at A-League clubs.
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