Mariners into GF after contentious ALM win over Sydney

A ropeable Ufuk Talay says he doesn't know what qualifies as a handball in 2024 after Sydney FC's controversial A-League Men semi-final loss to the Central Coast Mariners.

Talay could barely contain his frustration with referee Alireza Faghani after a 0-0 draw, which gave the Mariners a 2-1 win on aggregate, in front of 20,059 at Gosford's Industree Group Stadium on Saturday.

The Mariners' treble dream remains alive after claiming a controversy-laden tie that sets up a grand final meeting with Melbourne Victory in Gosford next week.  

Sydney were fuming with Faghani's officiating after being denied two penalties.

The first came when Jordan Courtney-Perkins was felled by Dan Hall inside the Mariners' box after seven minutes but was dismissed as "incidental contact".

Central Coast Mainers players celebrate making a second consecutive Grand Final after a thrilling win over Sydney FC.
Central Coast Mainers players celebrate making a second consecutive Grand Final after a thrilling win over Sydney FC.
Photo by Scott Gardiner/Getty Images

The second came late in the second half as Sydney pushed forward and Robert Mak's shot cannoned into the arm of Mariners midfielder Max Balard.

Adding to Talay's gripes was the fact Mak had a goal chalked off on review by VAR because Fabio Gomes, who had laid the ball off to Mak, had appeared to obstruct the Mariners' defence.

The Sky Blues were livid and midfielder Anthony Caceres was sent off after fulltime for remonstrating with Faghani, who was escorted down the tunnel by stadium security. 

Talay was not as animated but the usually level-headed Sydney boss let out a calculated dig at the referee. 

"The disappointing part for me is that the game wasn't decided by the players more the officials," Talay said. 

"In my opinion, Jordan's is a penalty. 

"The handball is a handball, I don't know what the rule is with handball anymore. 

"I saw Daniel Arzani's (handball) against Wellington. It hits his knee, then his chest, then his hand and it's a penalty.

"This one blatantly hits Balard's hand or arm and it's not given.

"I just think sometimes we just go off on a whim and make a decision of how we feel at that time. I don't want to sound like a sourpuss because not once this year have I spoken about one official.

"For me it's frustrating and disappointing to not get the outcome we deserved tonight." 

The three questionable calls are likely to linger with Sydney all off-season.

But, for the Mariners there was plenty to celebrate.

After winning the A-League Men premiership and the AFC Cup, their quest to clinch the grand final for a second-straight year and seal a treble remains alive.

They had to weather a storm from Sydney's attack and some hazardous conditions to wrap up the win which now puts them on the cusp of consecutive titles. 

"We showed tremendous courage and we probably didn't play as much as we wanted to play," said Mariners boss Jackson. 

"I'm so proud to be able to secure a home grand final for the first time."

The only blemish for Mariners boss Jackson is that assistant Danny Schofield will be forced to watch from the stands, shown two yellow cards after arguing with Faghani.

Schofield was later captured on broadcast vision gesturing with his middle finger towards the camera and is likely to face suspension from Football Australia.