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Jason Cummings gets last laugh as Central Coast Mariners destroy Melbourne City to win A-League title

Jason Cummings gets last laugh as Central Coast Mariners destroy Melbourne City to win A-League title

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The opening 20 minutes were tight, tense, and gave little hint of the footballing massacre that was to come. It all began when Nkololo broke down the right and sent in a brilliant cross which fell right in Cummings’ lap. His first shot was blocked by Curtis Good, who tumbled to the ground as Cummings pounced on the loose ball.

City looked a little shell-shocked, but there was much, much more where that came from. Just after the half-hour mark, an incredible scything run down the opposite flank by Silvera opened City up again, and there was nothing his marker Nuno Reis could do about it. Silvera kept going, and going, and going, until he was suddenly inside the box and the ball in the back of the net.

City promptly struck back to make it 2-1 five minutes from the break after some smart interplay between Good and Marco Tilio unlocked Jamie Maclaren. His cutback was smashed home by Richard van der Venne. Yet were it not for the outstretched legs of Tom Glover, who denied Nkololo in added time, they would have conceded again.

The real City finally emerged on the other side of half-time, and the pressure they piled on the Mariners was relentless. But so, too, was Central Coast’s rearguard, led brilliantly by Nectar Triantis, who is reportedly bound for Sunderland, and Vanuatu international Brian Kaltak, whose prime minister Ishmael Kalsakau flew to Sydney specifically to watch him play.

They kept them at bay until Nabbout gave away the first penalty in the 66th minute, and from there, they unravelled. For City, who were regarded as heavy favourites, this was an unmitigated disaster, a total and utter psychological capitulation.

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Melbourne City have been the best team all year – for a few years, actually – but their hopes of an A-League dynasty may have evaporated. They have finished top of the table for the last three seasons but have lost three of the last four grand finals. Like it or not, that is how champions are crowned in this country, and on the one night that mattered the most, they fell to pieces.

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“I have no words,” said coach Rado Vidosic. “It looked like they wanted to win the game more than us. They outplayed us first half, they bullied us, they won every 50-50. I just can’t explain what happened, what went wrong. Probably it’s not the tactical components, it’s just attitude, mindset.”

City should have been hosting this grand final, were it not for that controversial Destination NSW deal that instead brought it to Parramatta, and, crucially, within driving distance of Gosford – and that might have made all the difference. The Mariners, unsurprisingly, had the vast majority of the support. Don’t blame them, though; it wasn’t their decision.

An off-season of upheaval now looms for City, who will lose retiring skipper Scott Jamieson, Belgium-bound Socceroo Jordan Bos and probably Tilio and Aiden O’Neill as well. It would shock nobody if they rebuild successfully and make it straight back to this stage, but the bottom line is this particular group of players should have won more trophies.

  • June 3, 2023