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Apr 16, 2013

Penalties could be key to A-League decider

There aren't many moments in sport more pressure-filled than a penalty shoot-out.

But if it comes down to that in Sunday's A-League championship decider, minor premiers Western Sydney will feel confident, with their gloveman Ante Covic boasting a faultless record this season and great self belief.

Of the four spot-kicks he's faced, he's saved every one.

No mean feat, especially considering one of the penalty takers was Sydney FC's Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero.

On the other hand, Central Coast go into the sold-out Allianz Stadium clash with their penalty-taking woes well known.

They missed five in a row in the latter stages of the season, including two in the Asian Champions League.

Covic, the goalkeeper of the season, says with not much separating the two sides who finished first and second in the regular season, he won't be surprised if the game comes down to penalties.

"It's going to be a game that's probably limited in chances," Covic told AAP.

"I think we nullify each other in certain areas.

"I hope we do the job within 90 minutes, but if it does go that way I go into the penalties with the belief that the striker is the one under pressure. He's the one that's expected to score.

"I try and stand firm. If you move early, you usually get punished, so I try and stay on my feet for as long as possible and get them to make the decision rather than making the decision for them.

"I'm going to go in there with confidence and believe that I can save every single one."

The Mariners also have a topline keeper in Mat Ryan and their season Golden Boot winner Daniel McBreen has been able to find the back of the net 18 times this season.

When it comes to scoring from the spot however, it's a different story.

McBreen started this season's horror run missing two in row before Nick Montgomery, Ryan and Michael McGlinchey also failed from the spot.

But veteran striker McBreen finally broke the Mariners' hoodoo with a well-taken penalty against Melbourne Heart in round 27.

The Mariners' bad run with spot-kicks extends past this season.

They lost the grand final to Brisbane two years ago on penalties and bowed out in similar heartbreaking fashion last year, losing a shootout to Perth Glory in the preliminary final.

But McBreen says he's not haunted by those memories.

"'I'll take all five if you want," McBreen told AAP.

"Hopefully it won't get there, but we're all confident.

"The guys have all got their hand up ready to take it, so we've got no qualms about it.

"I think everybody else is making more of a deal of the penalty issue than us.

"It's just one of those things that happened and we'll just move on."

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