According to coach Phil Moss, Central Coast Mariners came close to perfection in their 2-0 A-League upset of Brisbane Roar.
Now for the hard part.
Moss couldn’t help but smile after the Mariners secured third spot on the A-League ladder and a home semi-final with Saturday night’s gutsy Suncorp Stadium win – only their seventh in 34 games against Brisbane.
“That’s as close to perfect you can get in a football game,” Moss said of their counter-attacking display.
“We head into the finals with a lot of confidence.”
However, Moss had little time to savour it ahead of Wednesday night’s Asian Champions League (ACL) clash with FC Seoul at Gosford.
Juggling ACL and A-League finals duties will no doubt be challenging for Moss’ Mariners.
Then again, Central Coast have made a habit of overcoming the odds this season.
“At the start of the season we made the goal of making the top six – there have been a lot of changes since then,” Moss smiled.
Somehow the Mariners have not missed a beat despite losing young defender Trent Sainsbury (Dutch club PEC Zwolle) and veteran striker Daniel McBreen (Chinese Super League club Shanghai SIPG) during the January transfer window.
They joined an exodus that included four players before the season had started, the departure of inspirational coach Graham Arnold to Japan and even a new CEO.
Yet when the dust settled ahead of the A-League finals, Central Coast not only found themselves third on the ladder but top of their ACL group.
“The solidarity and the belief of the players to keep the ship sailing in the right direction – they have been a massive support for me,” Moss said.
“We didn’t ask for sympathy from anyone, we just got on with it.”
Asked how hard it was to juggle the ACL ahead of the finals, Moss said: “I think it has been a blessing to be honest – the more games the better.
“It means all 22 players are used.
“No one is getting stale sitting in the grandstand.”