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Apr 8, 2012

Roar through to A-League grand final

Reigning A-League champions Brisbane Roar will attempt to defend their title on home soil after progressing to the grand final with a 3-2 win over Central Coast in Sunday's major semi-final second leg.

Heading into the second leg at Bluetongue Stadium with a 2-0 lead, the Roar scored twice early to break their opponents' hearts before withstanding a brief Mariners' fight back to win the tie 5-2 on aggregate.

The result means the Roar will host the competition decider for the second successive year on Sunday, April 22 at Suncorp Stadium.

Premiers' Plate winners Central Coast, meanwhile, will host an in-form Perth Glory in next Saturday's sudden death grand final qualifier.

While the Mariners had talked up their chances of overturning the first-leg deficit, their hopes suffered a brutal early blow as Thomas Broich needed only 63 seconds to score a vital away goal and put the visitors up by three goals.

The German midfielder whipped in a free kick from the left flank that almost inexplicably missed everyone, including goalkeeper Mat Ryan, as it bounced into the net.

Mariners coach Graham Arnold was incensed the goal was allowed to stand, claiming Nichols had interfered with play from an offside position.

The protests fell on deaf ears, however, and it meant the Mariners needed to score four unanswered goals to progress.

That daunting assignment became a nightmare, though, in the 26th minute, with Nichols scoring with a neat finish from close range in the 26th minute from a sublime Henrique through ball.

Mariners heads could easily have dropped from that point, but they refuse d to lay down and breathed some life back into the tie with two goals in three minutes.

Defender Patrick Zwaanswijk struck first in the 29th, firing a low shot in from 25m after dispossessing Besart Berisha, before Adam Kwasnik chimed in with a good finish after some clever build up from Oliver Bozanic.

The Mariners could have had a third before halftime, but were unlucky not to earn a penalty after what looked a clear hand ball by Henrique in the box.

Arnold made his frustrations clear to the officials at halftime, and the Mariners kept pushing forward after the break.

They looked the more dangerous side in the second half and tested Roar keeper Michael Theoklitos on several occasions.

But Henrique combined with Berisha to put the final nail in the coffin in the 67th minute to ensure the Roar home ground advantage and perhaps a significant mental advantage heading into the decider.

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