Adelaide United have booked a semi-final clash with Melbourne City after a thrilling 3-1 elimination final victory over Central Coast Mariners at Coopers Stadium.
The Reds were made to work hard for the win with the Mariners looking the more likely at times during the clash, pushing Adelaide right until the end.
United will now face minor premiers Melbourne City at Coopers Stadium on Wednesday night before the second leg in Melbourne on Sunday.
Coach Carl Veart heaped praise on his side, saying he was always comfortable with how the game unfolded.
“It was a bit of a stretched game, that’s the way Central Coast play,” he said.
“They push a lot of numbers forward and I think we limited the opportunities they had to get in behind us.
“It’s finals football, it’s always on a knife’s edge, it can go either way and our boys were tremendous.”
Adelaide attacked straight from the kick-off but once the Mariners settled, they gained control of the match and pushed the Reds back.
Despite the early dominance, United did find a way through on four minutes with a quick free kick which released Craig Goodwin.
He then found Ryan Kitto who drove a low cross for Lachlan Brook, but the winger should have done better from close range, right in front, scuffing his shot wide.
The Mariners pressed and found some joy on their right side with Beni Nkololo forcing an impressive save from Joe Gauci after a low, curling left-footed shot had the Reds keeper scrambling.
United worked their way back into the contest and the two sides traded blows before the Reds broke the deadlock on 26 minutes.
A strong interception from Aleksandar Popovic saw the young stopper storm out defence before supplying a through ball to Goodwin.
The Reds winger latched onto the pass, after it had wrong-footed Central Coast defender Cameron Windust, and slide his first-time effort past the on-rushing Mark Birighitti.
Ten minutes into the second half and the Mariners had a goal but it was correctly ruled out for offside.
Max Ballard carved through three United players before slipping a pass to Jason Cummings who slid his shot past Gauci.
United doubled their advantage on 66 minutes after a well-worked passage.
Isaias played a first-time, long ball out wide on the left to Goodwin, who whipped in a perfect cross for Kusini Yengi to side-fott home from close range.
Just four minutes later and the Mariners did pull one back thanks to substitute Storm Roux.
Nkololo had his powerful shot saved by Gauci.
From the resultant passage of play, Ballard recycled possession and turned his opponent inside the area and supplied the cut back for Roux to knock in at the back post.
Central Coast pushed for an equaliser but in stoppage time the Reds scored a third courtesy of Bernardo.
Isaias again supplied the pass out from midfield with Bernardo’s first touch taking it past his defender before driving towards goal and firing low and hard from the outside of the area, wrong-footing Birighitti.
Mariners coach Nick Montgomery said his side deserved better.
“I thought we dominated the game for 25 minutes – it was a sloppy goal for us to concede,” he said.
“We had some half-chances, probably picked the wrong option in that front third a few times but we felt comfortable up until that point.”