Epic scenes as Mariners complete historic A-League fairytale in extra-time thriller

May 26, 2024 5:30 am

[Source: SMH]

The magical sporting story that is the Central Coast Mariners has delivered the ultimate final chapter with back-to-back A-League championship wins and a history making treble of trophies in season 2023/24 following an epic 3-1 extra time win over the Melbourne Victory in Gosford.

Just when you thought the Central Coast fairytale had finally come to an end, English striker Ryan Edmonson delivered a superb normal time equaliser in the 91st minute to break Victory hearts, just minutes away from what would have been a record equalling fifth Australian football title for them.

His heroics were matched by that of Mariners youngster Miguel Di Pizio who struck early in the first half of extra-time, finishing off a move that he started himself.

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The 18-year-old drove forward from midfield and got on the end of a Ronald Barcellos cross to become the youngest scorer in A-League Grand Final history.

As the Victory pushed forward in hope of an extra-time equaliser, Edmondson added his second to secure the Joe Marston Medal for best on ground and ultimately seal a treble winning feat that is simply hard to fathom for a club that was once the laughing stock of the competition.

The match-winning moments sent a record breaking, sell-out crowd of 21,379 in Gosford into utter delirium as they celebrate a club that is now the jewel of the region as it continued to defy every obstacle possible over the last two years to become arguably the best single season team in A-League history.

That emotion spilled over on the final whistle as the Mariners fans ran onto the field to celebrate with their heroes and manager Mark Jackson in spectacular scenes not seen before in an A-League Grand Final but one fitting of an Australian football feat that is simply unmatched.

Instrumental in both Mariners goals was Socceroo midfielder Josh Nisbet, who may be diminutive in stature but is simply massive in heart and talent.

Once the Mariners went behind, he drove his side on like no other to help set-up both goals and add a Championship Medal to his Johnny Warren Medal for best player of the season.

The defeat for the Victory continues one of the more stunning droughts in Australian sport, that of manager Tony Popovic and his now five Grand Final losses across spells with Western Sydney, Perth and now Melbourne.

His credentials as a manager are undoubted but it’s a heartbreaking hurdle that he simply cannot get past.

It is one he and the Victory faithful thought he had finally evaded though after Jason Geria’s second half strike to put the Victory 1-nil up.

The 31-year-old Socceroo was set-up nicely by some tricky interplay from Daniel Arzani and Jordi Valadon who teed Geria up on the edge of the area to side-foot a stunning strike home into the top left-hand corner to send the several thousand travelling Victory fans into ecstasy.

That only served to spark the Mariners out of their malaise and into history making action.

With Nisbet and his midfield compadrade Max Balard at the heart of every foray forward they finally broke a resolute Victory defence late in normal time and seemingly driven on by an entire city, went on with it to deliver a second successive championship for the Central Coast Mariners, third trophy for the season and third title in their now glittering history.