Eddie Krncevic started with a new formation to counter Zoran Matic's ever defensive tactics. A 4-4-2 formation, with Andy Vlahos moving back into the midfield and Adrian Cervinski coming in as striker. Marco Bresciano replaced an injured Vince Grella, and Mark Atkinson went into defense to fill the gap left by suspended Con Anthopoulos and captain Sean Douglas.
Marconi had only conceded the 1 goal in their last handful of outings. A defensive game plan the team has sworn by and done remarkably well to make it this far, having been down and out, written off at mid-season. A point stressed by Marconi captain Brad Maloney after tonight's game. Again tonight a sound defense which virtually blanked out Carlton's Adrian Cervinski and John Markovski, and held tight right up until injury time at the end of the game.
Carlton started the stronger and began to attack the brick wall Marconi defense. Andy Vlahos, Kresimir Marusic and Robert Travkovski all linked well in midfield, with the latter providing many crosses in from the right. However, Marconi battled back to dictate the mid 10-20 minutes of the first half. Sean Babic, Francis Awaritefe and Brad Maloney all making nuisances of themselves. And then came Marconi's best chance of the game, Darren McDonald connecting first time onto a half-cleared ball, and smashing his volley onto the crossbar from 30 metres.
The balance of power swung back into Carlton's favour, where it stayed for the rest of the night. Marconi, used to making the most of wide players in Casserley and Renaud, were both unsighted tonight, and most of Marconi's thrusts forward had to come through the centre. Leaving them many times, without any attacking options at all, and simply booting the ball upfield or out of play.
And what chances Marconi did create, David Cervinski and the rest of the Carlton defense did extremely well to run out, clear or hack away. Much was said of Cervinski's marking of Awaritefe in the past week by the 2 players, but as pointed out by David, He always has done the job of keeping Francis from the goalscorers list. It proved a intriguing battle between the 2 tonight, and it needed referee Simon Micallef to cool a heated clash.
A Vlahos ball to Trajkovski, who found Marusic in the box, to fire just over the bar, were the last actions of note in the first half. The second half began as the first ended. Carlton attacking with bursts of pace, (as coach Eddie Krncevic had them train during the week, with the objective to catch the Marconi defense off guard) came closer and closer to breaking the deadlock. Marusic played a neat ball to Andy Valhos, whose shot was cut off by Marconi keeper Ante Covic at the near post. Then Markovski put a header just over the bar from a great Marco Bresciano cross.
Marco Bresciano came to life in the second half. Rather subdued in the first, Bresciano was a completely transformed player. He found confidence from the half time break, and backed himself to run with the ball and take on his opponents. Sprinting through the centre, Marco beat the highly rated Korean import sweeper, Pan-Kuen Kim and drilled his shot just left of the goal.
Yet Carlton were made to keep alert in defense. Sean Babic beat his man and clear on goal, but a clean and crisp tackle from Simon Colosimo put the ball out for a corner. Then still, Vlado Zoric went through on goal, Lubo Lapsansky too far behind to make a clean challenge and knowing any yellow card would see him miss the grand final, made the ultimate sacrifice for his team, by tugging on Zoric's shirt and bringing him to ground. Lubo, only marginally not the last defender, received his suspending yellow card and perhaps fortunate not to see red.
But it was Marco Bresciano who put the icing on the cake. Collecting the ball from his own half, feeding it off to Robert Trajkovski, who in turn found Marusic and for Kresimir to play it back to the galloping Bresciano just outside the box... Marco took the ball in his stride, side-stepped the challenge from Marconi's Dominic Longo, and rifled his shot into the bottom left hand corner, giving Marconi's Ante Covic no chance in goal.