Long off- sea­son ahead for shat­tered Mariners

Townsville Bulletin - - Sports -

CREST­FALLEN Cen­tral Coast coach Graham Arnold be­moaned an ex­tended off-sea­son which will al­low the men­tal scars of his shat­tered troops to fes­ter af­ter their be­wil­der­ing grand fi­nal loss last night.

The Mariners were 2-0 up with just four min­utes to play in ex­tra time to be star­ing at their in­au­gu­ral A-League ti­tle be­fore Bris­bane Roar got out of jail at Sun­corp Sta­dium with an amaz­ing come­back.

Af­ter sub­sti­tute striker Hen­rique fi­nally beat out­stand­ing goal­keeper Matt Ryan for the Roar to open their ac­count, mid­field en­forcer Erik Paar­talu headed home a cor­ner off the last play of the game for a dra­matic equaliser.

Roar play­ers cel­e­brated as though they had won the match, while the Mariners’ heads dropped and they were beaten 4-2 in the penalty shoot-out with shots by Daniel McBreen and Pedj Bo­jic bril­liantly saved by Michael Theok­l­i­tos.

Arnold, a mem­ber of the Soc­ceroos side which let slip a 2-0 lead over Iran in the mem­o­rable 1997 World Cup qual­i­fier, ad­mit­ted it would be in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult for his play­ers to over­come the pain of the club’s third de­feat in a de­cider.

‘‘ They’ll hurt, they’ll hurt for a while but we’ve got a long time be­cause we’ve got six months be­fore the next game,’’ the proud but dis­ap­pointed coach said.

The A-League will kick off later next sea­son, in Oc­to­ber, to avoid a clash with the NRL and AFL play-offs, a de­ci­sion which am­pli­fies the Mariners’ pain.

‘‘ It’s crap, six months off in foot­ball?’’ Arnold ques­tioned. ‘‘ I think the sea­son this year’s been great be­cause we’ve played so much foot­ball.

‘‘ I un­der­stand the rea­sons why, but as a coach it’s quite frus­trat­ing this is go­ing to live with us for the next four or five months un­til we start again.’’

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