Central Coast Mariners are A-League champions for the first time since 2013 after Jason Cummings, in his final appearance in the yellow and navy shirt, scored a hat-trick in an incredible 6-1 Grand Final humbling of Melbourne City at CommBank Stadium.
It is the Gosford club’s second A-League championship, while City fall at the final hurdle after a premiership-winning regular season for the second straight campaign.
Cummings’ hat-trick, and goals from Moresche, Samuel Silvera and Beni Nkololo led the Mariners to a famous triumph in their fourth Grand Final appearance.
“Just feeling really proud,” Mariners boss Nick Montgomery told reporters post-game.
“Really proud of everyone involved in the club: the staff, players, the supporters, the community. Everybody got behind us.”
Rado Vidosic’s side settled into the contest first with their engine room dictating the early stages in front of a healthy, yet far from capacity gallery in Parramatta.
Marco Tilio, possibly playing his final game in the sky blue jersey, made some space and hit a speculative effort from just outside the area that was never troubling Danny Vukovic.
At the other end Cummings had Central Coast’s first chance, beating Tom Glover with a toe poke but City managed to clear their lines – just – to keep the Grand Final scoreless.
Referee Chris Beath, controlling a football match for the last time, was forced to bring a halt to proceedings after a heavy collision between Vukovic and Valon Berisha. The Mariners gloveman bounced straight back to his feet, but Berisha stayed down and didn’t look to be in great shape.
Boos came from the Central Coast end when the Kosovan appeared to make a miraculous recovery. He was soon withdrawn, however, with Richard van der Venne coming on.
But the jeers would soon turn to jubilation for the yellow and navy fans when Cummings was this time successful with a toe poke, providing his most important goal for the club from three yards out.
Tightly marked on the edge of the six-yard area, the Socceroo saw his initial effort blocked but became the beneficiary of a perfect bounce, expertly finding the bottom corner from the rebound to break the deadlock.
It was nearly two for the de facto home side when Marco Tulio opened up his body and unleashed a curling strike that Glover managed to tip away for a corner.
With all the running, the Mariners were now well on top. The decider was being played at breakneck speed, allowing both sides to transition from defence into attack the second possession was turned over.
It felt like a second goal was right around the corner, and soon enough it came through the enterprising Silvera. Burning his defender with sheer pace on a mazy run into area, Silvera then beat Glover with a perfect side-footed shot to double his side’s advantage.
City were shell-shocked, staring down the barrel of a second straight Grand Final defeat with only 50 minutes remaining to right the ship.
But right as things could hardly seem more grim for Vidosic’s men, they were right back in the contest through Richard van der Venne.
Just six minutes after copping a second goal, Curtis Good played in Maclaren with a delightful ball on the turn, the Golden Boot winner then cutting it back for van der Venne who made no mistake from the centre of the penalty area.
As Beath’s whistle signalled the conclusion of a very open and entertaining opening stanza, the decider was poised for a thrilling climax.
CIty came out with plenty of energy to start the second half, with Vukovic pulling off a great save, lunging to his right to deny Mathew Leckie.
An equaliser soon after the restart would swing the momentum completely in City’s favour as the Mariners seemed content to sit on their advantage.
There were shades of the elimination Sydney Derby at the same ground three weeks ago, as the press of City dispossessed a nervy Central Coast outfit in their own half on multiple occasions.
Just as City were turning the screw, the Mariners went up the other end and won a penalty after Andrew Nabbout clumsily brought down Jacob Farrell. The 20-year-old had only been on the pitch for a minute before winning the spot-kick.
Cummings stepped up to the spot and delivered, restoring Central Coast’s two-goal lead with just over 20 minutes to play.
“Yeah, I’d say so (that the first penalty broke City),” Cummings said post-game.
“They’re a really good side. They got that goal, 2-1, then the third goal let us a breathe a little bit. Then we were just relentless. Our attacking players are a different class, and the boys coming off the bench, just top quality. Super happy, super proud of these guys.”
Soon after Beath blew for another penalty, after the ball unluckily struck Callum Talbot’s hand. This time Cummings went the opposite direction – but it was the exact same result, the Socceroo completing his hat-trick, only the second three-goal haul in a Grand Final in league history.
With the championship already secured Central Coast were now turning on the style, and before long they had a fifth goal, Beni Nkololo getting in on the fun in front of the raucous Mariners fans with a header from close range.
Those supporters had started the party early, preparing for the shenanigans on the bus ride home on the M1 with a sea of flags and delirious chanting.
Moresche then added a sixth goal, completing City’s humiliation with a sweet curling effort past Glover.
The David versus Goliath battle was over, with a decisive and surreal victory for Nick Montgomery’s underdogs.
“I have no words,” a shocked Rado Vidosic told journalists post-match.
“It felt like every time they crossed halfway in the second half, they scored. It wasn’t our night. But I can’t blame the players.
“We’ve got (Asian) Champions League to look forward to, and the start of next season.”