Central Coast's Asian adventure halted in Nagoya

Central Coast Mariners 2012 AFC Champions League campaign is over following a 3-0 defeat to Nagoya Grampus at the Mizuho Athletic Stadium in Japan this evening.

Central Coast Mariners 2012 AFC Champions League campaign is over following a 3-0 defeat to Nagoya Grampus at the Mizuho Athletic Stadium in Japan this evening.

First half strikes from Keiji Tamada and Jungo Fujimoto combined with a late header from Markus Tulio Tanaka dashed the yellow and navy-s hopes of progressing to the knockout stages of Asia-s premier club competition.

Following the game, Central Coast mentor Graham Arnold praised his team-s effort throughout what has been a lengthy season. The Club-s participation in the AFC Champions League came at the tail end of the Mariners- highly successful, premiership winning Hyundai A-League campaign.

“It-s been a wonderful season and I couldn-t be prouder of my team,” Arnold said. “The players, the staff and everyone involved with the Club has given their all to ensure we earned success this season.”

“We played against a very good Nagoya team tonight. I felt that probably up till 80 minutes, even though the score was 2-0, we had our chances but didn-t score where they did score their chances.”

“It-s been a wonderful experience for us to play in the AFC Champions League with a very young team. We had five 20-year-olds on the field and they have had a wonderful season. It was great to get to this situation where the last game of the Champions League we were still in it.”

“Overall, I think with a young team we did very well and I was very happy. We-ve learnt a real lot. With the young kids it-s time for them to step up to another level.”

Indeed, despite the discrepancy in budgets between the respected J-League outfit Grampus and the A-League-s Central Coast, it was the Mariners who began the match on the front foot.

The impressive Tomas Rogic crafted the first real opportunity of the game less than ten minutes in, finding space before seeing his shot smothered by the Grampus defence. Soon after Daniel McBreen spun in the box, but failed to connect firmly with his shot.

On 13 minutes Tulio, usually stationed at right stopper, found himself in an unlikely position on the right wing. His crisp shot on the angle was palmed away by Mariners custodian Mathew Ryan.

Five minutes later Dragan Stojkovic-s men took the lead. With referee Abdulrahman Abdou having awarded a contentious free-kick just outside the box, Tamada stepped up to rifle a left footed, curling effort into the back of the net.

Having recently been awarded the Central Coast Mariners 2011/12 Golden Boot alongside Bernie Ibini and the departed Matthew Simon, defender Patrick Zwaanswijk was one avenue the Mariners could look to to restore parity. And, when a free kick was awarded 25-yards from goal, it was the tall Dutchman who stepped up to take the opportunity.

Zwaanswijk-s low effort was powerful and troubled Seigo Narazaki who couldn-t keep hold of the shot at the first attempt, but the gloveman could thank his teammates for ensuring the ball found safety.

Nine minutes before half-time Grampus doubled their advantage. Fujimoto made an incisive run from midfield and was found with a delightful pass. Approaching the advancing Ryan, the Nagoya number 8 showed his class to lift the ball past the Hyundai A-League Goalkeeper of the Year.

Mariners boss Arnold made two changes soon after the half-time interval, introducing Bernie Ibini and Trent McClenahan to the match and switching the formation from a four-four-two to a more attacking four-three-three.

The move seemed to pay some dividends with the Mariners creating a number of chances to net. It was arguably the Mariners best player on the night, Rogic, who was central to these opportunities.

First the skilful attacking midfielder had his shot from Adam Kwasnik-s square ball from the right deflected away for a corner, before Narazaki was at his outstanding best to deny the number 10 from the edge of the area.

And while Arnold put youngster Mitchell Duke on in the latter stages of the game in an attempt to turn the match in his teams favour late on, it was Nagoya who would net a third to cruel any lingering hopes the Mariners might have to overturn the deficit at advance to the knockout phase of the tournament.

Tulio-s header from an acute angle near the six-yard box looped over Ryan, sending the small but tremendously vociferous Grampus support into raptures.

Nagoya Grampus 3 (Tamada 19-, Fujimoto 36-, Tulio Tanaka 87-) Central Coast Mariners 0 Mizuho Athletic Stadium, Nagoya, Japan Crowd: 5,037

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