Evergrande edge spirited Central Coast

CENTRAL Coast Mariners gave up an early lead to Chinese Super League giant Guangzhou Evergrande to go down 2-1 in their 2013 AFC Champions League Round of 16 First-Leg tie in Gosford on Wednesday.

CENTRAL Coast Mariners gave up an early lead to Chinese Super League giant Guangzhou Evergrande to go down 2-1 in their 2013 AFC Champions League Round of 16 First-Leg tie in Gosford on Wednesday.

Despite a passionate display by the Mariners who fought hard for 90 minutes, Mitchell Duke-s seventh minute goal wasn-t enough to overcome the South American inspired Asian heavyweights, who netted through Paraguayan superstar Lucas Barrios and Brazilian ace Muriqui.

The Mariners started brightly and took the lead early on. Bernie Ibini held the ball up well on the corner of the 18-yard box before precisely lifting it into the path of Duke. The young marksman, who has been training with the Australian National Team recently, connected with Ibini-s crafty pass with his root boot, making no mistake in sending the ball beyond Zeng Cheng and into the back of the net.

Central Coast-s intent to take the game to Guangzhou was clear and the Mariners held the majority of possession in the opening 20 minutes of play, offering Marcello Lippi-s Evergrande little chance to attack.

Guangzhou-s first real opportunity fell in the 21st minute as former Celtic midfielder Zheng Zhi fired a powerful shot at Mathew Ryan. Ryan pushed the shot away with his chest, and while the follow up fell to Dario Conca, a lunging Patrick Zwaanswijk managed to deflect the Argentine-s effort behind for a corner.

The back-to-back Chinese Super League winners levelled proceedings in the 28th minute via a powerful Barrios strike. An Evergrande effort from outside the area fell kindly to the former Colo Colo and BVB Borussia Dortmund man just inside the area, with Barrios droving a forceful volley beyond Ryan to restore parity to the contest.

Guangzhou-s goal did not deter the attacking effort of the Mariners who continued to press high. Ibini, Duke, Daniel McBreen and Michael McGlinchey were proving particularly influential for Graham Arnold-s team on the night.

After going to the break at 1-1, 2012/13 A-League Golden Boot winner Daniel McBreen tried to restore the Mariners- advantage early in the second stanza. McBreen struck a crisp shot at Zeng but his effort on the angle found the ‘keeper.

Attacker Gao Lin had been highlighted as a key man for Evergrande and Ryan needed to tip his freakish bicycle kick over the bar soon after the restart.

And while the Mariners shot stopper pulled off some great saves throughout the contest, he was powerless to prevent Muriqui from scoring his team-s second of the evening 76 minutes in. Gao touched the ball into the path of the Brazilian attacker before he curled his shot beyond the outstretched left arm of Ryan to give his side a 2-1 lead.

The influential Duke nearly struck an equaliser for the Mariners in the 88th minute as he fired a volley from close range at goal. Unfortunately for Arnold-s outfit, Zeng was again well positioned, dropping low to stop the ball which had been struck through a sea of legs.

The defeat in Gosford will make things difficult for Central Coast in the second-leg of their AFC Champions League Round of 16 tie against Guangzhou Evergrande in China next week.

The Mariners need to win by two clear goals away from home to advance directly to the last eight of Asia-s premier club competition. Only a 2-1 Central Coast win at the Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou next Wednesday will send the two-legged playoff into extra time in China.

Central Coast Mariners 1 (Duke 7-) Guangzhou Evergrande 2 (Barrios 28-, Muriqui 76-) Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (Gk), 2. Daniel MCBREEN, 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Zac ANDERSON, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON (c), 9. Bernie IBINI (29. Nick FITZGERALD 79-), 14. Michael MCGLINCHEY, 18. Nick MONTGOMERY (11. Oliver BOZANIC 82-), 19. Mitchell DUKE Substitutes not used: 8. Adriano PELLEGRINO, 15. Brad MCDONALD, 17. Anthony CACERES, 20. Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 21. Mile STERJOVSKI Yellow cards: Zwaanswijk Red cards: Nil

Guangzhou Evergrande: 5. Zhang LINPENG, 6. Feng XIAOTING, 10. Zheng ZHI (c), 11. MURIQUI, 15. Dario CONCA, 18. Lucas BARRIOS, 19. Zeng CHENG, 28. Kim YOUNG GWON, 29. Gao LIN (4. Zhao PENG 85-), 32. Sun XIANG, 37. Zhao XURI (16. Huang BOWEN 72-) Substitutes not used: 3. Yi TENG, 7. Feng JUNYAN, 14. Feng RENLIANG, 22. Li SHUAI, 33. Rong HAO Yellow cards: Huang Red cards: Nil

Attendance: 8,953 Referee: Abdul Malik Abdul Bashir (Singapore)