Central Coast’s pre-match talk gives insight into ‘dangerous’ mindset: ‘I welcome it’

Catch the highlights from a dramatic AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Final as Macarthur FC hosted fellow A-Leagues club Central Coast Mariners.

Central Coast Mariners head coach Mark Jackson highlighted when his side are most dangerous; “With our backs against the wall” after the Isuzu UTE A-League champions moved a step closer to AFC Cup glory.

A 120th-minute goal from substitute Ronald Barcellos not only gave the Mariners a dramatic 3-2 win over Macarthur FC in Thursday night’s AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Final, but it sent Central Coast through to an Inter Zonal Semi-Final against India’s Odisha FC.

It netted the A-Leagues club $100,000 (AUD ~$153,000) in prize money following the first ever meeting between two Australian clubs in AFC competition.

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Macarthur had led 2-1 early in extra time before goals from Mikael Doka and Barcellos lifted the Mariners – who visit Melbourne Victory on Sunday – to an incredible win in Campbelltown.

“I said in the pre-match talk with the players, I said as a group my feeling about us is that we’re better with our backs against the wall,” Jackson told reporters in his post-match press conference as his side have continued to juggle A-Leagues and AFC Cup commitments in 2023-24.

“When we’re travelling away, we have multiple games. We have things against us. We’re a dangerous team when we have our backs against the wall. So, I welcome it.

“I welcome the extra games. I welcome the extra travel. I know we can deal with it. I know we have the staff who can support the players.

“I know we have the players with the mentality to be able to prepare and be really professional so they can get through these games.

“It’s a real positive for us as a club. It’s an honour to be in the competition.”

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Central Coast broke the deadlock with nine minutes of regulation remaining through Angel Torres before a last-gasp equaliser from Bulls captain Ulises Davila forced extra time.

Macarthur’s Lachlan Rose put the hosts on top in the opening minutes of additional time before the Mariners mounted a comeback of their own, with Mikael Doka levelling the score at 2-2 with a superb finish from range to provide the platform for Barcellos to break Macarthur hearts with a late, late winner – his first goal in Mariners colours.

It was a heart-breaking end to Macarthur’s AFC Cup campaign but Bulls head coach Mile Sterjovski is adamant the club are destined for success.

Macarthur are fourth in the Isuzu UTE A-League as they prepare for Sunday’s trip to Newcastle Jets in Round 18.

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“Me personally and our team made a conscious effort to entertain our fans. To make the club grow,” said Sterjovski.

“We want to see Macarthur succeed. It’s a growing area. I really do believe, with time, we will be a very successful club with what we have in place for the future.”