It’s here. It’s Grand Final time. After 171 matches, only two teams remain in the race with a chance to be crowned A-League champions – Season 2010/11. Central Coast earned the right to challenge Brisbane in the final after doing just enough to beat the Gold Coast 1-0 in last week’s Preliminary Final. Brisbane qualified a week previously with their 2-leg victory over Central Coast in the major semi final. Both sides have never been champions in the league’s five year history with Central Coast coming closest, losing the showpiece match 1-0 in both 2005/06 and 2007/08.
Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners (1700 AEDT – Fox Sports 3)
I’m not going to keep you hanging, Brisbane Roar are going to win. The side with the longest unbeaten streak in A-League history have been comfortably the best team all season. That unbeaten streak stretches way back. Six months and 27 games to be precise. In five previous clashes this season, the roar have won three, drawn the other two and hit 14 goals past the mariners defense. Two of those head to heads have come in the finals. Brisbane comfortably won the first leg of the major semi final 2-0 away at Bluetongue Stadium, but were surprisingly pressured in the 2-2 return leg at Suncorp. Central Coast actually led 2-0 in that match before Brisbane became more fluent in their passing game after the interval.
It wouldn’t be a grand final build up without fitness clouds hanging over key players and conjecture over team selection. Central Coast have the biggest worries with fitness and injury concerns for key striker Matt Simon and midfield playmaker Patricio Perez. Simon’s cut foot has healed enough for him to return to the starting lineup. For much of the year, Mariners coach Graham Arnold has stuck with a front pairing of Simon and Daniel McBreen, however Adam Kwasnik scored the winner last week and has more than double McBreen’s season goal tally. I think Arnold will start with Simon and Kwasnik. Perez was subsituted late on in the mariners victory last weekend after seeming to pull his hamstring. The midfielder will be put through his paces in a Friday afternoon fitness test. The main selection dilemma in front of Brisbane coach Ange Postecoglou was whether to play Jean Carlos Solorzano or Henrique up front. Postecoglou confirmed midweek that he is going to stick with Solorzano for the A-League decider.
Brisbane have been the best team all year because they are the best passers of the ball. This allows them to open up and pick holes in even the most well organised defense. Central Coast do have a solid back four led by skipper Alex Wilkinson, but I can’t see Brisbane not scoring, whereas I can see Central Coast not finding the net. History dictates this will be a low scoring match as only once in the five A-League grand finals has a team scored more than one goal (Melbourne in their 6-0 thrashing of Adelaide in 2007). I am betting that this game will open up after the break as the teams tire and more space is available.
Andy’s Bet: Brisbane to win @ 1.77 (TAB Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Most goals in the second half @ 2.10 (Sportsbet)
I would like to sign off from the season by thanking everyone who has read the column. And hopefully you have been jumping on the suggested bets! Since the inaugural article halfway through the season, the suggested bets have netted a 27% profit. Let’s hope we can get two more wins in this week. See you next year!