Queensland Roar past Mariners to preliminary final
Queensland Roar's pursuit of a maiden A-League grand final appearance continued after wrapping up a 4-1 aggregate victory over Central Coast Mariners at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane to secure a place in the preliminary final.
Mitch Nichols and Matt Mckay scored to hand Queensland a 2-0 lead just after half-time in the second leg of the minor semi-final and a four-goal cushion overall following their 2-0 win at Bluetounge Stadium last Friday.
Half-time substitute Nik Mrdja pulled a goal back for the Mariners just after the hour mark and despite a late rally from the visitors, Queensland will face either Melbourne Victory or Adelaide United in next Saturday's preliminary final with a place in the grand final at stake.
Tomorrow, Melbourne will also look to defend a 2-0 first-leg advantage in the second leg of the major semi-final against Adelaide, with the winner advancing directly to the showpiece grand final.
Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic produced a smart save after just nine minutes to deny a charging Michael Zullo as the midfielder burst into the area and looked to fire across the face of goal.
After Dylan Macallister's back-post header was saved by Queensland goalkeeper Liam Reddy, the home side took a 3-0 lead in the tie as they opened the scoring after 22 minutes as Sergio van Dijk turned on the edge area and fired low towards Vukovic.
The Mariners goalkeeper was unable to hold the well-struck effort and the ball broke to McKay who picked out Massimo Murdocca on the edge of the area and his shot across the face of goal was diverted past Vukovic by Nichols' outstretched leg.
Needing three goals in the second half just to force extra-time the Mariners introduced strikers Sasho Petrovski and Mrdja at half-time.
But just four minutes after the restart the Mariners' attempt at an aggressive start to the half proved costly as they were caught short at the back and Nichols slid a perfect pass through to McKay who had the simplest task of beating an exposed Vukovic from just inside the area following a swift counterattack.
Vukovic turned Seo Hyuk-su's low drilled effort onto the post minutes later before Mrdja pulled a goal back four minutes after the hour mark as his low drive from the edge of the area skipped off the wet surface to beat Reddy.
Spurred on by the goal the Mariners came back into the contest in search of an unlikely comeback as Reddy was forced to save from substitute Adrian Caceres and the lively Mrdja.
But the Mariners failed to really test Reddy over the final 20 minutes and were unable to stop Queensland recording a fourth straight win as their own campaign came to an end.