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Apr 21, 2013

Mariners win first A-League championship

After three failed attempts Central Coast finally won their maiden A-League championship, ending Western Sydney's remarkable debut season with a 2-0 win in Sunday's Allianz Stadium decider.

Most of the talk surrounded the Wanderers' fairytale season but the Mariners, playing in their fourth grand final in eight seasons, had a fairytale of their own to ensure.

After losing the 2006 grand final to Sydney FC, then again to Newcastle two years later before suffering the most heartbreaking of losses to Brisbane in the 2011 penalty shootout, the Mariners were not going to let another one slip.

Patrick Zwaanswijk opened the scoring in the 44th minute and, at 38, became the oldest grand final goal scorer while fellow veteran Daniel McBreen, 36, ensured the win with a spot kick in the 68th.

The win halted the minor premiership-winning Wanderers' 13-game unbeaten streak in front of a 42,102-strong crowd.

Mariners young gun Bernie Ibini had the first shot of the match, testing the Wanderers' defence just four minutes in.

Wanderers' Croatian striker Dino Kresinger was set up perfectly to break the deadlock, but just couldn't get on to Mark Bridge's cross right across the face of goal.

The Mariners continued their first-half assault with Mile Sterjovski hitting the crossbar, Joshua Rose just shaving there post and Ibini forcing the first save of the match just before the break.

But it was Dutch defender Zwaanswijk who finally found the back of the net in the 44th minute, with a text-book header off a Michael McGlinchey corner putting the Mariners up 1-0.

The Mariners kept creating chances in the second half with McBreen drawing a save from Wanderers 'keeper Ante Covic.

The Wanderers had shots of their own in the second half with Jerome Polenz forcing Mariners' gloveman Mathew Ryan into action while Japanese star Shinji Ono had his strike blocked.

But there was late drama with the Mariners awarded a penalty after a handball in the box from Jerome Polenz in the 67th minute.

McBreen, who had failed in two of the Mariners' recent string of five missed penalties, stepped up to the mark and sent his powerful shot past Covic for a 2-0 lead.

Wanderers coach Tony Popovic brought on Labinot Haliti for Kresinger up front in an effort to inject firepower up front but to no avail.

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