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Macarthur sink Mariners in A-League finals


A 10-man Macarthur FC have defied the odds to claim a 2-0 upset win over Central Coast in the opening A-League elimination final.

In just their first season, Macarthur silenced a passionate Mariners home crowd at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday night with two extra-time goals to book a semi-final showdown with this season's premiers Melbourne City next weekend.

The Mariners were in the box seat to celebrate their finals return after a seven year exile when the Bulls' James Meredith was sent off in the 75th minute for bringing down Marco Urena.

The Mariners' danger man clearly handballed before the Meredith challenge but the VAR judged it accidental and the red card stood, much to the disbelief of visiting coach Ante Milicic who was left shaking his head after watching big screen replays.

Still 0-0 at the end of regulation time, the finals dream became a nightmare for the Mariners when Charles M'Mombwa found the back of the net three minutes into extra-time.

After an Ivan Franjic cross, Markel Susaeta hit the far post and M'Mombwa's header off the ricochet set up the Bulls' first ever win over the Mariners at the fourth attempt.

Teenager Michael Ruhs put the icing on the cake when he was set up by Jake Hollman in the 121st minute.

They finished the game without key stars Matt Derbyshire (hamstring) and Markel Susaeta (leg) but hung on to extend the career of former Socceroos captain Mark Milligan who will retire at season's end.

It was a devastating finish for the Mariners, the 2013 A-League champions, who were appearing in their first finals campaign since 2014 after reversing a run of four wooden spoons in five seasons.

Despite being without their inspirational captain Oliver Bozanic (calf), Alen Stajcic's side were the overwhelming favourites after finishing third to host the final and boasting a 3-0 head-to-head record against the newcomers with a 6-1 goal tally.

The Bulls though settled first and English marksman Derbyshire looked to have notched goal No.15 for the season in the fourth minute with a wonderful volley but it was ruled out for offside.

Bulls fans were up again on 11 minutes but a brilliant reflex save by Mariners 'keeper Mark Birighitti denied a Meredith header off a Benat free kick.

There was no repeat of the home side's tentative first half start after the main break and Daniel Bouman appeared to have scored in the 56th minute after pouncing on a Meredith deflection but it was contentiously ruled offside.

Kye Rowles sprayed a bullet-like volley over the crossbar on 120 minutes in the Mariners' best chance of an extra-time equaliser.

Source AAP