The Central Coast have booked their place in the semi-finals with a 1-0 win over Adelaide, but their nightmare schedule has soured the victory.
A nightmare schedule threatens to derail the Central Coast’s dream of defending their A-League title, with Mariners coach Phil Moss slamming the timing of their semi-final fixture.
A 1-0 win over Adelaide booked the Mariners their place in the semi, where they’ll meet the Western Sydney Wanderers at Parramatta Stadium next Saturday – barely more than 24 hours after returning from their Asian Champions League fixture in Japan.
The result also means Melbourne Victory will face Brisbane in the other semi at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday week.
A sensation Bernie Ibini strike in the 67th minute was enough to secure the win, leaving them just one victory away from a league-record fifth grand final appearance.
They managed to contain and eventually dominate the free-flowing Adelaide, who have not tasted victory at Gosford since January 2009, but Moss admitted it wasn’t their most polished performance of the season.
“There were some pretty parts, there were some ugly parts, and some grit and graft and some very sensible football as well,” he said.
However, the Mariners left feeling the scheduling has robbed them of the opportunity to put their best foot forward against the Wanderers.
The squad will board a flight to Japan on Sunday morning, hoping to secure a spot in the ACL knockout phase in their must-win game against Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Wednesday. They return home on Friday morning.
Moss said it wasn’t only compromising the quality of the football they’d play on Saturday but also the players’ wellbeing.
“I think both of those things are put in jeopardy when you have to get off an overnight flight from Asia. You don’t have time for a session and you have to back up and play a grand final qualifier the next day,” he said.
Moss said he had voiced his concerns to A-League boss Damien de Bohun, who said ground availability was among the reasons the fixture had to be played on Saturday instead of Sunday.
But with Parramatta Stadium free of NRL games on Sunday, Moss said he was left confused.
“I still think it’s avoidable and it’s something that has to be seriously looked at for the future,” he said.
“We have to respect the teams who are in the ACL and give them every chance to be successful in both competitions, and a 24-hour turnaround from flying in from an overnight flight to playing in a grand final qualifier is not acceptable.”
However, Moss said the pressure would now be on the Wanderers to perform.
“They’ll be the ones expected to qualify for the grand final,” he said.
“No one’s tipped us to make the grand final, let alone win it.
“So that will be nice to go into the game nice and relaxed with nothing to lose.”