CENTRAL Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold hailed his side's heroic effort in the A-League grand final as a victory over all those who doubted the side's potential last year.
But unbeatable Brisbane Roar blitzed the Mariners with a dream double strike in the last four minutes to send the game to penalties in a thrilling finish to a blockbuster match.
Two wonder saves by Roar keeper Michael Theoklitos in the penalty shootout was enough to deny the Mariners the Championship in their third grand final in six years.
Arnold was disappointed by the result but delighted by the performance of his team that were ranked outsiders by the media before a ball had been kicked last year.
“I have to say I’m extremely proud of the boys," he said after the game. "You blokes sitting here tipped us to come ninth or 10th (at the start of the season) and we have just been beaten in a penalty shootout in a Grand Final.
“We claimed (an) Asian Champions League spot, so it’s been a hell of a good season, we were one kick away from winning the competition.
"It’s been a very good season, we have developed an outstanding goalkeeper, we had Bernie an 18 year old and another 17 year old on the field, it’s been a good year for us.”
Despite the devastating heartbreak of seein ghte Championship slip out of their gfrasp with literally the last touch of extra time, Arnold was still able to see the positives from the epic encounter.
“What a fantastic game. What a fantastic spectacle for the A-League. The game has been crying out for something positive this year, and I think that was the most positive thing,’ said Arnold.
“[The Mariners players will] hurt, but we have six months before the next game."
Roar coach Ange Postecoglou was overjoyed and heaped praise on the unbelievable character shown by his side during the game.
“At one stage, we looked down and out but while I was sitting there, I was filing through my mind the amount of times that we had found something this year and I thought it wouldn’t really surprise me if this group of players found what they needed,” he said.
“We’ve had an absolutely extraordinary season and I should’ve expected an extraordinary finish.”