Gutsy Mariners earn solid Group G start

IN the lead up to Central Coast Mariners second foray in Asia’s premier club competition, the AFC Champions League, Head Coach Graham Arnold stressed the need for the club to do Australian football proud.

IN the lead up to Central Coast Mariners second foray in Asia-s premier club competition, the AFC Champions League, Head Coach Graham Arnold stressed the need for the club to do Australian football proud.

On Wednesday night at an ice cold Tianjin Teda Football Stadium, the Yellow and Navy undoubtedly earned the respect of many Australian football followers, taking the game to their hosts in adverse conditions to get their Group G campaign off to a solid start.

The 0-0 stalemate wasn-t precisely the result Arnold desired - he always stated the Mariners were heading to Tianjin to win - but a point away from home in front of a partisan crowd was enough to satisfy the wily former Qantas Socceroos mentor, who understands how vital any points away from home can prove to be in the final Group reckoning.

“I thought we played a fantastic game,” Arnold said. “After playing on Saturday in Australia and travelling for 22 hours with only two days here in Tianjin I thought it was a fantastic performance from my team. I was very proud of the way that we played. We definitely competed very well with a very good Tianjin team.”

Indeed, after a slightly nervy opening to the match the Mariners began to get a foothold in the game around the 20 minutes mark. Michael McGlinchey weaved past his marker before finding Adam Kwasnik. Kwasnik couldn-t quite manage to trouble the keeper with his shot on the spin.

Soon after Oliver Bozanic floated a nicely shaped free kick into the area. Patrick Zwaanswijk rose highest, however the Dutch defender couldn-t direct his attempted header on goal.

In the 31st minute Teda had a glorious chance to open the scoring. With a fierce shot from close range coming, Mathew Ryan stood tall to block the ball to safety.

Teda Captain Wang XinXin looked a menace dropping between the defensive lines, and he showed why he is so highly regarded in the 40th minute. Cannoning a shot at Ryan from range, XinXin-s shot flew just high of the bar, landing on the top netting.

With the temperature dropping at half-time, Arnold stuck with the same eleven he had picked to start the second stanza, while opposition mentor Josip Kuze made one change, introducing crowd favourite Hu Rentian for Li Benjian.

But despite the introduction of the speedy Rentian, it was the Mariners who had the first chance of the second 45. Mustafa Amini fed Josh Rose down the left side, with Rose-s shot on the angle just claimed by Song Zhenyu in the Teda goal.

Macedonian international and new Teda signing Veliche Shumulikoski could have earned cult status among the purple and white faithful in the 60th minute. However, the midfielder chose to attempt to chip Ryan when a powerful strike would perhaps have been the better option. Alert as ever, Ryan plucked the ball from the sky the keep scores level.

Tomas Rogic was introduced into the game for Amini with 25 minutes to play and immediately looked like he could posses the X-Factor the Mariners might need to steal all three points. At the heart of the majority of the Mariners- best work for the final portions of the match, Rogic looked a comfortable at AFC Champions League level.

However despite the match seesawing from end-to-end as the clock wound down, neither Arnold-s men nor Kuze-s team could find a goal to kill off their opponents. Bernie Ibini-s added time effort struck a desperate Teda defender and drifted away for a corner.

After referee Abdullah Mohamed Al Hilali and his assistants from Oman had called time on the match, Arnold praised Tianjin Teda-s style of play, as well as the emerging Chinese Super League.

“I think they will have a successful season, I think that Tianjin is a very good team. They have a wonderful coach in Josip Kuze and he will do very well,” he said.

“I was very impressed with the way they played football. I think the team balance and structure overall was very good, and they are a very very strong team.

I think it shows that Chinese football is going to be very very strong, and it will be one of the powerhouse leagues in Asia with the J-League very soon.”

And Arnold reiterated his praise for his teams- effort.

“But I am very proud because I don-t know if the journalists know but we had four 19-year-olds on the field, we-re a very young team, and we had four 19-year-olds who did excellent tonight,” he concluded.

Match Details Tianjin Teda - 0 Central Coast Mariners - 0 Tianjin Teda Football Stadium

Tianjin Teda FC: 1. Song ZHENYU (Gk), 4. Milan SUSAK, 5. Li WEIFENG, 6. Lucian GOIAN, 7. Li BENJIAN (8. Hu RENTIAN 45-), 10. Wang XINXIN (C) (20. Mao BIAO 80-), 21. Chen TAO, 24. Bai YEUFEND, 26. Sjoerd ARS (17. Hui JIAKANG 80-), 29. Veliche SHUMULIKOSKI

Unused substitutes: 2. He YANG, 15. Liao BOCHAO, 19. Nie TAO, 25. Yang QIPENG (Gk)

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (Gk), 2. Daniel McBREEN (12. Troy HEARFIELD 90+3-), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael MCGLINCHEY, 18. Alex WILKINSON (C), 22. Mustafa AMINI (17. Tomas ROGIC 64-), 23. Adam KWASNIK (9. Bernie IBINI 77-)

Unused substitutes: 19. John SUTTON, 20. Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 21. Sam GALLAGHER, 27. Trent MCCLENAHAN