This Sunday the Western Sydney Wanderers will take on the Central Coast Mariners in the A-League Grand-Final. These two sides have undoubtedly been the most consistent performers all season and deserve their place in this year’s biggest footballing showcase. Their record against each other highlights just how finely balanced these two teams are: a win, draw and loss to each side.
Before we jump into these three fixtures, let’s take a look at each team’s semi-final victory, a glimpse at their form coming into this weekend’s decider.
Western Sydney Wanderers vs. Brisbane Roar
Wanderers win 2-0.
Two very classy goals, from Dino Kresigner and Shinji Ono, decided this seemingly one-sided clash. Brisbane Roar have traditionally been a team that focus on holding possession and breaking down opponent’s lines, comparable to the style of play made successful by Barcelona. However, the Wanderers play a very energetic, high-pressure, counter-attacking system that was able to mute the Roar’s possession football.
Both teams adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation, which was perhaps key. It would be difficult for either team to find holes in their opposition’s lineup with timed, measured attack. This suited the counter-attacking nature of the Wanderers who sought to capitalise on any space provided by the Roar formation twisting out of shape during their own attacking phases.
Both teams pressed very high, as has been the case throughout the season. The front four of the Wanderers (3-1) pushed up, Hersi, Ono, Bridge and Kresinger imposed themselves on the Roar defence and squeezed them into mistakes. Berisha and Nichols particularly, aimed to do the same for the Roar, but were less effective.
Dino Kresinger, the man of the match, proved himself to be key in this game with his incredible work rate, not only earning him a goal, but holding up the ball for Wanderers attacks and closing down and over-powering his opponents. The Wanderer’s first goal began with Dino bringing down a long ball from Beauchamp and ended with his delicate flick into the back of the net. On the other hand, Berisha was consistently outmuscled by both Michael Beauchamp and Nikolai Topor-Stanley, and unable to replicate Dino’s performance up front.
As the game wore on, Brisbane’s possession football was unable to break down the structure of the Wanderers who were unconcerned with holding possession needlessly. The inexperience of Yiannis Pekratis, coming in for the injured Aaron Mooy, was emphasized at times by Nichols and Broich, but not to any fatal extent. The same goes for the lack of speed in Shannon Cole who was caught off-pace by Halloran and Berisha on multiple occasions. Eventually Brisbane began to overextend in search for the equaliser and this created a huge amount of space between the Roar attacking unit and their back four.
In the Wanderer’s second goal they were able to exploit this, albeit with an incredible strike from Shinji Ono. The Japanese marquee found himself in acres of space, simply created by an offensive push forward by Dino, Hersi and Bridge. He had all the time in the world to set up his clever chip into the back corner which sealed the game for the Wanderers.
However, the game wasn’t over for the home side. Hersi’s red card came at an unfortunate time in the game and more importantly, the season. Brisbane were unable to make use of their extra man, but Hersi’s suspension for this weekend’s clash against the Mariners might have a major effect.
Central Coast Mariners vs. Melbourne Victory
Mariners win 1-0.
The Mariners managed to edge a victory in their semi-final clash against Melbourne, but rarely looked troubled by the Victorian-based side. A lone goal from Golden Boot winner, Daniel McBreen, was enough to secure a finals berth for the Mariners, but as has been the case throughout the season, it was organisation on and off the ball that did the job.
The Mariners used a 4-2-3-1 formation, similar to that adopted by the Wanderers against Brisbane, with Hutchinson and Montgomery sitting deep. Interestingly, Sterjovski played at the top of the formation with McBreen placed just behind him. The Victory, on the other hand, attempted a slightly more aggressive 4-1-2-3 with Rojas, Flores and Thompson spearheading the attack. It is a testament to how well disciplined the Mariners are, that they were able to make this formidable offensive line-up seem rather tame.
The Mariners were happy to let the Melbourne back four hold possession, and forced them to use their fullbacks to launch attacks. When Melbourne got the ball, if a quick error was not enforceable, the Central Coast’s wingers (Ibini and McGlinchey) would drop back into a flat 4-4-2 with McBreen or Sterjovski pressuring the centre-halves to play the ball wide. This made it incredibly difficult for the Victory to find any space in the centre of the field, effectively eliminating Flores from the game. Montgomery and Hutchinson easily closed down Broxham and Milligan all game, and on the odd time they were beaten, Sainsbury or Zwaanswijk were able to clean up.
The Mariners were fast in transition, making great use of their fullbacks, Bojic and Rose, who frequently burst down the wing. This put great pressure on the Victory’s two young wing backs, Geria and Galloway, who were often exposed by Ibini and McGlinchey’s central runs combined with the wide presence of the fullbacks. Melbourne’s defensive structure was consistently torn apart, which created the space possible for McBreen’s long-ranged bomb into the back of the net.
In the second half, the Victory replaced Flores with Connor Pain and Thompson moved into the “false nine” position. This marked a notably increased presence of the Victory attack who were able to, at times, find space behind Hutchinson and Montgomery (especially after Montgomery was sent off). They were unable to put the ball into the back of the net however, with Sainsbury and Zwaanswijk near impenetrable.
Game 1 – Wanderers vs. Mariners at Parramatta Stadium
While most didn’t realise it at the time, this would be a defining game of the season. The first match of the 2012/13 A-League calendar would also be the last, and for reasons that this clash made clear. Both sides were highly organised and unable to squeeze any advantage out of the other.
The Wanderers used the 4-2-3-1 formation they have stuck to all season, with Dino as target man, Bridge in behind him and Haliti and Hersi on the wings. Poljak and Mooy were the holding midfielders. The Mariners too used the 4-2-3-1 formation, unlike the diamond formation they adopted in previous seasons. Leading the line was Mitchell Duke, with Tom Rogic behind him and McGlinchey and Sterjovski out wide. Hutchinson and Pellegrino adopted the holding midfielder role.
The Wanderers pressing game was not to the extent that it is currently. Instead of the front three behind Kresinger pushing high on their opposition’s defenders, the wingers dropped back into a 4-4-2 much alike the Mariners did verse Melbourne in their semifinal. This still suited their counter-attacking game, allowing them to soak up pressure before launching forward quickly.
The Mariners played very similarly to how they have for the rest of the season, with a large focus on fullbacks Bojic and Rose to provide width in attack. It was obvious that players were rusty in their first game of the season, with Tom Rogic lacking creativity and wingers, McGlinchey and Sterjovski, failing to cut into the centre to provide support for Duke.
Mooy and Poljak were very effective in the centre of the field and gave the Mariners very little space. With extra pressure on Bojic and Rose to create any sort of offensive spark, the Central Coast defensive line was regularly exposed by the Wanderers counterattack who were let down on multiple occasions by poor finishing or a sloppy final ball through.
Eventually, Graham Arnold reverted the Mariners back to their diamond formation from last season with the introduction of Bernie Ibini and Nick Montgomery. The Wanderers also introduced, for the first time, Shinji Ono from the bench who, though noticeably unfit, was effective in playing clever balls through towards Dino Kresinger. However, the change in formation for Graham Arnold proved effective with the increased presence in the centre of midfield allowing the Mariners to expose the Wanderer’s back four, reducing the effectiveness of Mooy and Poljak as their shield by outnumbering them. Mariners dominated possession, but in the end were unable to find the finish and three points.
Game 2 – Wanderers vs. Mariners at Parramatta Stadium
Mariners win 2-0.
The Wanderers came into this game on the end of an impressive run of wins, but the Mariners, sitting happily on top of the table, were more than pleased in bringing their “fairytale” to an end (or so we thought). Both teams had made good use of organised defence and ruthless counter-attack throughout the first half of the season and it was always going to be a highly tense match, where a few mistakes and details would prove decisive.
The Wanderers came into the clash missing five key players; Michael Beauchamp, Mateo Poljak, Youssouf Hersi, Dino Kresinger and Adam D’Apuzzo – testing, for the first time this season, the depth of their squad. La Rocca filled in at centre-half and Jason Trifiro played alongside Mooy just in front of the back four. Appiah Kubi played on the wing in place of Hersi and Joey Gibbs led the attacking line. They employed their usual 4-2-3-1 formation, with Shinji Ono the key playmaker. Such a weakened squad, in a matchup between two tactically even sides, would prove to be pivotal.
Top goal-scorer McBreen and captain, John Hutchinson, returned to the Mariner’s side from suspension, although Hutchinson was left on the bench with Bozanic taking his position beside Montgomery in the midfield. For the first time this season, McBreen was deployed in the advanced playmaker role, after the sale of Tom Rogic to Celtic. Zwaanswijk was injured and replaced by Zac Anderson beside Trent Sainsbury in the back four.
The game exposed the remarkable similarities between the two sides, in a much more effective manner than in their first encounter. Both teams pressed high up the pitch and tried to force mistakes. They both adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation which made for minimal space to exploit between the lines. Both teams used counter-attacking football, however the Mariners focused on utilising their fullbacks more than the Wanderers.
This made for a game that sat finely on a tight rope, if you excuse the somewhat intricate analogy. Both teams created chances through high pressure, putting major emphasis on each side’s ability to not make a mistake. As the game wore on, the Wanderers decided to take the initiative – something neither team wanted to at the start of the match – and pressed much higher up the field than the Mariners. The Central Coast were happy to drop deep and defend in their own half before counter-attacking through their fullbacks, Bojic and Rose.
Most attacks came along the wings, with teams avoiding the congested centre of midfield. This was indicative of the wariness from both teams about making the one decisive mistake – losing the ball along the wings is less dangerous than losing it in the centre of the pitch.
Interestingly, the first mistake came from the Mariners – where Gibbs jumped on a loose pass between Anderson and Sainsbury and burst on towards the goal. Sainsbury dragged the young striker down, but was inexplicably let off a red card.
The game wore on with both sides reluctant to do anything too precarious. McGlinchey was superb for the Mariners and Polenz for Western Sydney. However, the Mariners were able to take the lead through a series of brilliant passes that dismantled the Wanderers defence. Perhaps too wary of a quick Mariner’s counter-attack, with the Wanderers unnaturally playing so high up the pitch, the Western Sydney defence was instead unlocked by a fairly regular piece of play.
The next key moment in the game was Jason Trifiro’s red card. In a clash so finely balanced, this would prove to be the tipping point. Ono was forced to drop back alongside Mooy and each alternated in pushing forward in attack. From this point on, the game opened up. The Wanderers were desperate for an equaliser, pushing higher than ever and exposing themselves to the Mariner’s counter-attack. Ibini came on for the Gosford-based side, giving them an extra outlet of pace which, combined with McGlinchey, began to stretch the Wanderers back four.
However, the Mariners were tired and sloppy, unable to find a goal to seal the fixture until very late in the game. The Wanderers were given every opportunity in the mean-time to find an equaliser and even sent Topor-Stanley on expansive runs forward towards the end of the game. A late penalty call from Bridge was dismissed, and finally the Mariners secured all three points with a late strike.
In the end, despite a 2-0 victory for the Mariners, this was a tightly fought game with neither team proving themselves clearly superior than the other. If not for Trifiro’s red card, it can be argued that the Wanderers would likely have found an equaliser, but such speculation is a waste of time.
Game 3 – Mariners vs. Wanderers at Bluetongue Stadium
Wanderers win 1-0.
Much like their previous two encounters, this would be a tightly fought battle decided by who took their chances better than the other. That being said, the nature of this game was drastically different than previous meetings. In this match the Mariners were able to create many more opportunities than their opponents, but were let down by both finishing and Lady Luck. On the other hand, the Wanderers had very few chances, but Haliti was able to convert at least one – proving to be conclusive.
Both sides lined up as they had all season, with their trademark 4-3-2-1 and focus on high pressure and counter attack. Poljak and La Rocca were deployed as the wall in front of the Wanderer’s defence. The Mariners, once again, used Duke up front with McBreen in behind him.
However, noticeable in this game compared to the finely poised meetings in previous rounds was the Mariner’s aggressive approach to the game. They were certainly the more proactive side and sought to break down the Wanderers defence with a fluid passing game and attacking front four. This didn’t force any change in the Wanderers game plan, who continued to close down quickly and attempt to expose the stretched Mariners defence on the counter-attack.
As the game progressed it became clear that this tactical decision from the Mariners was perhaps the sort of initiative needed to break down these two evenly matched sides. Unwilling to enter a high-intensity game like the second time they faced each other, the Central Coast sought to rely not on opponent’s mistakes but on their own ability to create chances.
Down the right wing, Bernie Ibini and Pedj Bojic were brutal, using their pace to constantly beat Bridge and D’Apuzzo. Rose and McGlinchey on the left wing also connected superbly to help breakdown the Wanderers midfield and defence. Attacks down these wings were organised and direct, disciplined offensives on the Wanderer’s defence with many crosses into the box.
This is where the Wanderers excelled however, with Michael Beauchamp and Nikolai Topor-Stanley defending heroically. Despite the Central Coast onslaught, Covic had only a few chances to deal with. Ibini mishit an early opportunity over the bar, McGlinchey volleyed just wide and McBreen’s shot hit the cross bar – their few actual attempts on goal were unable to find the back of the net.
The first half was more even then the second, with both teams finding periods of dominance – albeit the Wanderers appeared a lot less ruthless while on the ball. In the second half, the introduction of Nick Fitzgerald, which allowed McGlinchey to play centrally, proved hugely successful for the Mariners and they dominated the entire half. Opportunities became more regular, but the Wanderers defence remained structured and steadfast.
Then, of course, the penalty. Dino Kresinger was in the box defending a set-piece from the Mariners and unlike the Wanderer’s seasoned centre-halves, Kresinger was sloppy in defending the cross into the area. He dragged down Zwaanswijk to give away a penalty which Mat Ryan boldly stood up to take. However, goalkeeper of the season, Ante Covic, continued his perfect penalty record to save Mat Ryan’s shot right in front of the Mariner’s Yellow Army.
It was in the 80th minute, while Western Sydney fans were doing their famous Poznan, that Haliti so fatefully struck. The Mariners were not put off by their penalty miss and continued to launch attack after attack. The Wanderer’s focused their counter-attacks down Hersi’s wing, but were unable to create anything useful for most of the game. This time, interestingly, the attack came through the centre. A very straight line was made between La Rocca, Dino, Bridge and Haliti. The ball was played through to Bridge and Haliti broke off to the right into space. The Mariner’s defenders were caught sleeping and the ball through to Haliti dismantled them in an alarmingly simple manner.
This was a crucial moment in the season, when the Wanderers took first place and would go on to win the Premiership. However, it demonstrates just how finely balanced these two teams are. In game one, both teams were highly organised and denied opportunity. In game two, both teams were waiting for a mistake from their opposition and eventually the Wanderers fell to this pressure. In the third game, the Mariners took the initiative and played a hugely offensive game, but were caught out by a single Wanderers opportunity which was supported by rock-solid defending.
So far, it reminds me of World War I; bear with me, I’m studying it in in Y12 Modern History right now. In the first two clashes, neither was a battle of mobility. Neither side took the offensive, and instead relied on their strong defensive tactics supported by strategic counter-offensives. This is very similar to the Stalemate on the Western Front, where both belligerents resorted to the highly defensive trench warfare. Late in the war, the Germans sought to break this stalemate by launching the Spring Offensive, the first mobile battle in the war since 1914. Much like the Central Coast’s offensive in Gosford, this attack was ruthless and came oh so close to victory, but was unable to provide the finishing blow. The Allies, back on their heels, managed to launch a counter-attack which forced the Germans into full retreat.
The question is, in the final battle this Sunday, will the Wanderers, like the Allies, prove to win the war or will the Mariners come back one more time and defy history to finish victorious?
The Grand Final – the Wanderers vs. Mariners at Allianz Stadium
I expect this game to be tactically similar as in Gosford for the Mariners. They came very close to victory and could consider themselves unfortunate. Finishing the season as equal top-goal scorers and with golden-boot winner Daniel McBreen, the Mariners, while superbly organised in defence, have one of the league’s most versatile attacks.
McBreen has been the league’s best finisher of the ball, while McGlinchey and Ibini have been in incredible form cutting in from the flanks. On top of that, a key element will be the potency of their fullbacks, Bojic and Rose, bursting up the wings. Against Brisbane, the Wanderers looked most vulnerable down the wing from Halloran, especially after Polenz was taken off. It has been noted that the Roar should have focused on using their full-backs to put more offensive pressure on the Wanderers defence. They didn’t, but Bojic and Rose are certain not to make this mistake. On top of that, Polenz has admitted he is “50-50” for this Sunday’s grand final and Cole looked unable to deal with Halloran’s pace. This is a clear area that the Mariners can exploit.
Putting their versatile attack to one side, the Mariners have one of the most organised and structured defensive lineups in the league – perhaps second only to the Wanderers. Patrick Zwaanswijk and Trent Sainsbury have been an incredibly formidable centre-half pairing, shielded by Nick Montgomery and Hutchinson. Montgomery’s red-card (surprisingly, the first in his career) will be a blow to the Mariners, but perhaps not fatal. Both Bozanic and Caceres have deputised successfully in this position throughout the season. Shinji Ono, however, will certainly be looking to get in behind this wall, with the defensive-minded Montgomery no longer there.
The lack of Montgomery might play some role in reducing the potency of the Mariner’s fullbacks. Playing with a defensive line just in front of the back four has given the fullbacks more freedom to push into advanced areas, neglecting, to some extent, their defensive duties. Bozanic and Caceres are less defensive minded than Montgomery and lack his experience, this might cause a certain sense of wariness in the minds of Bojic and Rose. Similarly, Montgomery has played an important role in distribution all season, constantly releasing his full backs down the flanks. His loss will be felt considerably.
Another key player, but for different reasons than you might expect, is goalkeeper Mat Ryan. In the game against Melbourne Victory, his distribution with his feet and hands was superb. Incredibly superb. He might prove to be a crucial outlet for the Mariner’s defence to deal with the high-pressing of the Western Sydney attack.
Unlike the Wanderer’s defence, the Mariners let their opponents come into their own half – dropping into a 4-4-2 and forcing the opposition to utilise their wings. This was made clear against Melbourne Victory last week, and can often render the opposition’s striker useless. However, the Wanderers might look to play long balls up towards the large physical presence that is Kresinger, bypassing the Mariner’s midfield and looking to score a goal similar to their first against Brisbane. The Mariners defence will have to be wary of this. One of their centre-halves will look to pressure Kresinger and not be out-muscled by the large Croat. Meanwhile, Hutchinson and whoever plays beside him must keep a keen eye on Ono who will be looking to pounce on any space created by Dino and the long ball up to him.
The Wanderer’s will be heartened by the fact that the Mariners only managed to put one goal past the Victory last week, who have a significantly inferior defence compared to the Western Sydney side. However, it will not be a simple matter of the Wanderers with their backs against the wall, needing a bit of luck like they did in Gosford. Having won the premiership, cruised through the semi-finals and playing in front of a capacity 45 000 strong crowd in Sydney, they will be keen to take a more pro-active approach to this game. That’s not to say they will look to dominate possession; throughout the season only twice have they had more possession than their opponents, and both times they failed to win. In their 6-1 dismantling of Adelaide earlier in the year, they had just under 40% of possession. The Wanderers have always thrived on using their time on the ball as effectively as possible, and will look to do the same this Sunday.
Youssouf Hersi’s suspension is a major blow. Against the Mariners in Gosford, he was the focus of their attacks. In the Wanderer’s 2-0 loss to the Mariners towards the middle of the season, he was again suspended. Throughout the year, he has been one of the Wanderer’s best attacking outlets and the team, remarkably, has never won when he hasn’t played. Conversely, they have won the last 17 games he has played in. This is a problem. The Dutch-Ethiopian winger is likely to be replaced by either Appiah-Kubi or Rocky Visconte, two hugely talented youngsters, albeit missing the full quality and experience of Hersi. Another option is Haliti, who is industrious but missing the pace and creativity of Hersi. One of his most useful abilities, difficult to replicate, is the quick movement and footwork he utilises to get out of tricky situations. If the Wanderers are under trouble, they play the ball to Hersi who somehow finds space and time.
That being said, in the 80 or so minutes that Hersi played against Brisbane last week, he seemed lacklustre and the Wanderers proved they could perform without him. He was poor in dealing with the high pressure from Brisbane and was dispossessed on numerous occasions. This frustration was made clear and expressed in the sloppy tackles that led to his red card.
Wanderers fans will be happy to see the incredible form of Shinji Ono, however, who scored a superb goal last week against the Roar. His technique and passing vision is second-to-none in the league, and he will be looking to exploit any instance of space between the Mariner’s lines. The fact that the Mariners are missing Montgomery will allow the Japanese playmaker to find more opportunities for space, which might too be a vital element of this encounter. Popovic will surely have noticed how Archie Thompson’s aggressive approach when moved to the false nine position last week threatened to open up the Mariners, and will hope Ono can do the same with the assistance of Kresinger. Hutchinson will have to take up the majority of defensive duties here and there are questions as to whether he will be able to contain an in-form Shinji Ono.
Dino Kresinger has found his niche in the Wanderers lineup and is playing the best he has all season. This weekend, his industrious work-rate will be fired even further by the fact that he is basically playing for next year’s contract. Patrick Zwaanswijk and Trent Sainsbury are likely to be harder to break-down then the Roar’s defensive pairing of Donachie and North last week. That being said, Sainsbury in particular is unlikely to match Dino’s physicality and will have to rely on his technical defensive prowess. Mark Bridge has had one of his best ever seasons, and will be looking to continue his remarkable record in Grand Finals. He has played in two – one for Newcastle and one for Sydney FC – scoring in both and winning both.
The focus, as always, will be on the Wanderer’s counter-attack. They are unlikely to bring the game to their opponents like the Mariners will. Thus, there will be particular emphasis on Poljak’s distribution from the centre of the pitch towards his wingers or Ono. He has been an unsung hero for the premiership winning side all season, and his ability to break down play before starting the counter will be more important than ever. The question is, will a Hersi-less Wanderers front line be able to provide the quick, effective counter-attack? Unfortunately, it hasn’t all season.
The Wanderers defence has been, arguably, the best in the league. Captain Michael Beauchamp and Nikolai Topor-Stanley have gelled perfectly as centre-halves and are superbly organised. They deal with crosses and set-pieces extremely well. Meanwhile, the two midfielders placed just ahead of them look to doggedly break up play and force their opponents wide in the final third. With La Rocca suspended and Aaron Mooy likely injured, it is unclear who will start beside Poljak in the final. Pekratis started against Brisbane, and although showing good vision, was sloppy on the ball and gave up possession at times too easily. Brisbane were unable to make him pay for these mistakes, but the Mariners certainly could. He was replaced early in the second half by the more defensive minded Jason Trifiro, and I would not be surprised if that is the way Popovic starts this Sunday. Poljak and who ever plays beside him will have to be particularly wary of the Mariner’s wingers cutting in towards the centre of the field, McGlinchey in particular. At the same time, McBreen will look to drop deep and pull strings, or launch in a long shot like his winner against Melbourne. They will have to be switched on.
The Wanderers defend right up the pitch. They don’t give the back four any peace, with Kresinger, Bridge and co. pushing high on opposition defenders as soon as they turn-over the ball. This creates mistakes which the Wanderers hope to turn into attacking opportunities. This has been a constant all season, and is unlikely to change this Sunday.
On top of all this, they have the league’s best goalkeeper in Ante Covic who has been incredible all season. Let’s just put it this way: it’s not easy to get past the Wanderers and find the back of their net.
To win, the Mariners must be patient. They will likely dominate possession, but find it difficult to break the Wanderers down. At the same time, if caught sleeping, they are prone to the Wanderer’s swift counter-attack and must make sure they don’t over-extend in trying to find a goal. If they can score early, the Wanderers will highly struggle to find an equaliser and could well be out. The longer the game wears on however, the Wanderers backed by a predominantly home-crowd will gain the upperhand.
The Mariner’s might focus their attacks down the wings, with Bojic and Rose bombing forward. This bypasses the congested midfield and exploits the [potential] lack of Polenz and slow Shannon Cole in the Wanderers back four. It also leaves them less exposed to counter-attacks, a tactic we saw used in the second time these two teams faced where the Mariners won 2-0.
The Wanderers must not allow themselves to be dominated like in Gosford. Although allowing the Mariners to control possession, they will be looking for Poljak and whoever is beside him to break up play more quickly and allow Beauchamp and Topor-Stanley to breathe. If they too, like against Brisbane, can get an early goal, the Mariners might be forced to over-extend to find an equaliser and some well executed counter-attacks could put the game beyond reach for the Wanderers. Poljak and Ono will be key. If they can exploit Montgomery’s absence and create pockets of space, the Wanderers can build on their incredible defence and score goals. Needless to say, the Wanderer’s game-plan relies heavily on their defensive pairing of Michael Beauchamp and Nikolai Topor-Stanley, requiring them to be nearly perfect – something they’ve delivered all season.
On the other hand, this game might evolve in a similar fashion to the two side’s first encounter. With both sides nervous and particular wary, this game has a high possibility of pushing on into extra-time. It really comes down to who has the strongest mental strength. Can the Mariner’s forget about taunts of “chokers” and can the Wanderers put aside thoughts of a fairy-tale victory and instead focus on playing to the game plan?
This will be one of the most tightly fought games all season, and perhaps one of the A-League’s best ever Grand Finals. It won’t be pretty; both teams play a highly industrious form of football that is adverse to the free-flowing Barcelona style that Brisbane Roar have used to succeed in previous seasons. It will come down to key moments, perhaps mistakes that will dominate headlines in the days afterwards. Whoever wins, will certainly deserve it. Good luck to both teams.
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