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DWIGHT Yorke appeared to be in "sleep-mode" for the first 45 minutes at Aussie Stadium last night.


Then the Sydney FC captain exploded and ruined Central Coast Mariners' grand final party.

It took 30 seconds of pure magic from Sydney's marquee player, with Steve Corica providing the finishing touch, to settle the inaugural A-League championship before 41,689 fans.

The impact Yorke had in the second half was amazing and it also earned him the Joe Marston medal as the best player of the grand final.

Defeated coach Lawrie McKinna, who admitted to being gutted, thought defender Michael Beauchamp was the best on the ground.

"I am not taking anything away from Dwight. I thought Megsy (Beauchamp) was head and shoulders above the rest.

"His performance should ensure he's off to the World Cup with the Socceroos (Australia)," McKinna said.

Football can be such a cruel game. When a team doesn't take its chance it usually pays the high price of defeat.

The Cinderella story for the Mariners might have come true if only they had capitalised on their many first-half chances.

"Our first half was outstanding. It was probably the best of the season," McKinna said.

"We were saying on the bench that we needed one before half-time.

"We should have had it wrapped up (in the first half).

"When we went down a goal it deflated us. They had one chance and they took it. Then they just packed their defence.

"Life goes on. You have to try to keep smiling."

Sydney FC coach Pierre Littbarski was the first to admit his team was lucky and had got out of jail.

Before making a quick dash to the airport to catch a plane to Germany, a relieved Littbarski said: "Our last game was very tough and we were very lucky in the first half.

"I needed some players to step up in the second half and they did.

"I was surprised the way we gave the ball away and some players were running too much with the ball."

Yorke, Corica and Sasho Petrovski moved into a higher gear after the break and Sydney at last looked like a football team as their passing game came together.

"People had been saying Central Coast were physically stronger but I thought that we finished stronger," Littbarski said.

Littbarski gave no indication about his future with the club except to say: "I'll be back at the end of March.

"It has been a very tough year," he added.

Captain Yorke was not only full of praise for the way his teammates regrouped, but he sent a message to Socceroos coach Guus Hiddink that he thinks Corica should be added to Australia's World Cup squad.

"I think that he can bring something additional to the Socceroos," Yorke said.

"Whether I've done enough is up to the Australian coach," Corica said.

"This is sensational for me. This tops everything in my professional career."

Corica praised Yorke, who held up Andrew Clark and Noel Spencer before laying on the perfect pass for him to score the winner.

"I knew exactly where I was going to place it," he said.

Sydney had their defender Mark Rudan to thank for holding them together when they were under siege from Tommy Pondeljak and Dean Heffernan in an explosive opening from the Mariners.

When Rudan went off injured with 20 minutes remaining - and Jacob Timpano followed 10 minutes later - the big question was whether Sydney could hang on with the defence being disrupted.

But by that time the Mariners really didn't have enough gas left in the tank, although Sydney keeper Clint Bolton was called into action in the dying moments to tip a Wayne O'Sullivan shot over the bar.

Bolton then charged off his line to take a dangerous cross as the Mariners tried desperately to force extra-time.

SYDNEY FC 1 (Corica 62)
CENTRAL COAST MARINERS 0
Referee: M Shield
Crowd: 41,689 at Aussie Stadium.