Football: Any team can win in A-League finals, says Mariners' Stajcic

Football: Any team can win in A-League finals, says Mariners' Stajcic

REUTERS: Central Coast Mariners go into next week's A-League elimination finals with a perfect record over opponents Macarthur FC, but coach Alen Stajcic said complacency must not be a factor as his club return to the playoffs for the first time in six years.

Saturday's 2-0 win over Western United confirmed Mariners will finish it at least third place in Australia's A-League standings, bringing to an end a dismal run without a place in the post-season competition for the 2013 champions.

Stajcic has overseen a remarkable turnaround for the club this year after last season's last-place finish, and the former Australia women's coach wants his players to maintain their focus as the new phase of the campaign begins.

"They're a really good team, there's some fantastic footballers in their side, a well-coached, well-drilled team so we know how tough a challenge it is," said Stajcic of Ante Milicic's squad.

"Any team in this top six can beat each other and whoever turns up on the day is going to come away successful. I'm just pleased that we go into each clash knowing we give ourselves the best opportunity of winning with how we play."

Mariners defeated Macarthur United in all three A-League games this season against the newly created club, who have secured their own spot in the playoffs despite their status as the league's newcomers.

The pair will meet on Saturday in Gosford while fourth place finishers Brisbane Roar will host Adelaide United the following day after both clubs secured top six finishes of their own.

The winners of the two elimination matches will take on either A-League Premiers Melbourne City or last year's champions Sydney FC, who are aiming to claim the title for a record third straight season.

"It's an amazing effort from everyone at our club, for us to finish third on the ladder is just a really unbelievable achievement," Stajcic said.

"Ultimately that's one part of the equation done, a fantastic campaign from us but now there's a new competition next week."

(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong; Editing by William Mallard)

Source: Reuters