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Central Coast, Melbourne City advance to A-League grand final

SYDNEY (AP) — The two finalists in this year’s A-League championship match come in with far different recent achievements, but Central Coast Mariners coach Nick Montgomery says his team should not be written off against the three-time defending champion Melbourne City.

The Mariners advanced to their their first title decider in a decade with a 2-0 win over Adelaide United on Saturday, winning the two-legged semifinal 4-1 and setting up a date with City at Commbank Stadium in western Sydney on June 3.

On Friday, City beat a 10-man Sydney FC 4-0 to advance. The semifinal was level at 1-1 from the first leg and after Sydney’s Max Burgess was sent off in the 20th minute, Curtis Good’s 37th-minute header and Jack Rodwell’s 59th-minute own goal sent City on their way at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

“In two weeks time, there will be a bit of a David versus Goliath battle but we’re looking forward to it,” Montgomery said. “We can’t wait to walk out and, whatever happens that night, we’ll give it a good crack. We know we can beat anybody, so we’ll go in full of confidence.”

It was the third time in as many games that the Mariners had defeated Adelaide, preceded by a 2-1 win in the first leg and a 4-1 win in the final week of the regular season.

After finishing the regular season in second place, Saturday’s progression continued a remarkable turnaround in the Mariners’ fortunes.

In 2019-20, the same season in which City were beginning their run of four straight grand final appearances, the Mariners recorded their fourth last-place finish in five seasons. But in an unprecedented turnaround in fortunes in the three campaigns since, the Mariners have won more games than any A-League side other than City and made the playoffs each year.

“Even going into tonight people still doubted us,” said Montgomery. “I find it actually a little bit strange — but that’s football.”

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