Graham Arnold did his best to shrug off the heartbreak of another penalty shootout defeat after Perth Glory put his Central Coast Mariners out of the Hyundai A-League finals.
Graham Arnold did his best to shrug off the heartbreak of another penalty shootout defeat after Perth Glory put his Central Coast Mariners out of the Hyundai A-League finals, claiming the regular season Premiership and the AFC Champions League are more important in his mind.
Arnold nevertheless expressed his frustration after replays indicated Shane Smeltz's goal in the 1-1 draw involved a narrow offside in the lead-up.
The Mariners had taken the lead through Adam Kwasnik minutes earlier, and should have made their overall dominance count with a series of clear chances and a penalty in regular time that Patrick Zwaanswijk smashed into the crossbar.
Arnold conceded that his side should have killed the game off but philosophically questioned the emphasis put onto finals football.
"The performance was great but we didn't take our chances. It should never have gone to extra time. We missed five one-on-ones and a penalty," Arnold said.
"That's why I'm a traditionalist. That's why I look at the Premiership Plate with more value than the trophy for winning the grand final. Finals games are lotteries. It gets down to who performs best on the night and things you can't control like decisions.
"That's two in two weeks and in the last finals series it was three. Maybe I should go to a big club where you get the big decisions?
"The players are devastated. That's the thing that hurts the most, when you keep getting bad decisions. They're always asking why?"
While Arnold stressed that the 'big club' comment was strictly tongue in cheek, he did finally open up on the costly mid-season weakening of his side that was borne out of the club's necessity to accept transfer offers for two of his star players.
"The loss of Matty Simon and Rostyn Griffiths... our form over the last ten weeks has been good but we probably haven't played the way we wanted to play. Losing the heart and soul of your team has hurt us quite badly.
"John Hutchinson has been doing a fantastic job (in Griffiths' position) but we've missed Matty's goals and his work rate up front. It's disappointing that you build a team at the start of the season to try to be successful and then you have two of your best players sold and that makes things difficult."
The dejected and fatigued Mariners travelled straight from Bluetongue Stadium to Sydney as the first leg of their trip to Seongnam for Wednesday's Champions League clash, leaving Arnold with the task of lifting spirits after a disappointing end to a successful season.
"The last thing we needed was extra time. It saves me one embarrassing thing of whether I was going to play a second string team in the Asian Champions League or in the Grand Final," he said.
"I think it's more important to get through to the last 16 of the Champions League than win a Grand Final."
Arnold spared a thought for Glory's chances of springing a surprise at the Suncorp decider next Sunday.
"They'll find Brisbane very tough but they've got a lot of experienced players out there. They play a very direct and physical game and that might be the key to upsetting Brisbane," he said.