Mariners beaten in Beijing

Central Coast Mariners suffered a 2-1 defeat to China’s Beijing Guoan in their 2014 AFC Champions League Group F clash on Matchday 3 at the Workers Stadium on Wednesday.

Central Coast Mariners suffered a 2-1 defeat to China-s Beijing Guoan in their 2014 AFC Champions League Group F clash on Matchday 3 at the Workers Stadium on Wednesday.

Goals to Shao Jiayi and Peter Utaka on either side of half time helped Gregorio Manzano-s side claim maximum points, while Nick Fitzgerald converted a penalty in the dying stages of the match to give the yellow and navy late hope of salvaging a draw from their visit to the Middle Kingdom.

The hosts started the match brightly and came close to opening their account early on with a strike from Nigerian striker Utaka on target. The former Dalian Aerbin danger man fired in on the angle, but Mariners custodian Liam Reddy was equal to the attempt as he palmed the shot away.

Beijing continued to control the tempo and were nearly rewarded for their efforts as Jiayi sent an impressive free kick on target shortly after. However, Reddy was up to the task as he tipped the strike away for a corner.

The visitors- first opportunity of the match fell to Bernie Ibini on the edge of the area just before the half-hour mark, but the on-loan Shanghai SIPG man failed to trouble Beijing gloveman Zhang Sipeng as he struck his effort over the woodwork.

Manzano-s men came close to breaking the deadlock minutes later with an impressive strike from range. Piao Cheng forced the impressive Reddy into a flying save to keep the score at 0-0.

The team from the Chinese capital found the net on the stroke of half time with midfielder Darko Matic linking with Jiayi, who made no mistake as he blasted a low drive beyond Reddy.

Central Coast started the second stanza the better of the two sides and came close to finding an equaliser via the boot of Eddy Bosnar. The ex-Guangzhou R&F defender-s free kick from 30 yards slammed Sipeng-s right post, much to Sipeng-s relief.

Utaka furthered his side-s lead with just under half an hour remaining. After a neat one-two in midfield, the ex-Royal Antwerp marksman raced onto a precise pass, rounded Reddy, then slid the ball into the back of the net on the angle to score his first goal of his 2014 AFC Champions League campaign.

The Mariners reduced the deficit in the 86nd minute as Fitzgerald coolly converted a penalty following Zhang Chengdong-s challenge on substitute Isaka Cernak inside the area. The former Brisbane Roar ace made no mistake as he netted his first goal in Asia-s top club competition.

Phil Moss-s men pushed for a late leveller infront of the 32,198 strong crowd, but it wasn-t to be as Manzano-s men did just enough to secure their first win of this year-s AFC Champions League and propel themselves to the top of what is proving to be a tightly contested Group F of the competition.

In his post-match press conference Central Coast Mariners boss Moss couldn-t hide his pride in the effort and application of his team in what was a hostile atmosphere inside the Workers Stadium.

“The way my players dig deep in the second half, rolled their sleeves up and really matches the fight in the second half I was extremely proud of,” Moss said. “I thought the character that we showed in the second half to come back from conceding a goal right at the death of the first half was fantastic.”

“First half Beijing virtually kicked us off the park and I thought there were some key decisions that didn-t go our way.”

“One that led to the first goal that I thought was a clear foul on Matty Simon, so I was very disappointed with that, but overall I was very happy with the second half and it-s certainly given us a lot of confidence to take home despite the scoreline.”

“It was a battle out there tonight and a very hostile environment for my players and I think they stood tall.”

“Beijing are physically the strongest team that we have played,” he said.

With the Club-s next two matches in the 2014 AFC Champions League to be played in Gosford, Moss believes his men are well and truly in the mix to advance to the knockout phase of the Asia-s top club competition for a second successive season.

“It-s always a case of winning your home games and we-ve got off to a good start against Sanfrecce (Hiroshima) and we-ve obviously got two more home games to play and one on the road,” he said. “So I have always said if you can win your home games you-re going to be a good chance.”

“It-s good to see the group is so tight and it-s also good to see all the Aussie teams are in there with a great chance to make the second round.”

“Certainly we-ll be doing everything we can to get out of the group stage. We-ve got some important games in the A-League as well so we have to combine both.”

“We-re very proud to be representing Australia in the AFC Champions League, and I-d like to thank everyone in Beijing for their hospitality over the last few days, and congratulate Beijing on their win tonight, but we-ll be ready for them when they come to Gosford,” he concluded.

Central Coast will now shift their attention to their Hyundai A-League round 24 clash away to Melbourne Heart this Sunday 23 March. Kick-off at AAMI Park in the Victorian capital is at 3:00pm.

Beijing Guoan 2 (Jiayi 45-, Utaka 63-) Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (Fitzgerald (pen) 86-) Workers Stadium, Beijing

Beijing Guoan: 1. Zhang Sipeng (Gk), 3. Yu Yang, 5. Darko Matic, 10. Zhang Xizhe (26. Wang Hao 90+3-), 13. Zu Yunlong, 15. Peter Utaka, 20. Zhang Xinxin, 29. Shao Jiayi (6. Zhang Ziaobin 90+3*-), 31. Zhao Hejing, 39. Piao Cheng (16. Ha Dae-sung 46-), 68. Zhang Chengdong Substitutes not used: 7. Yang Yun, 9. Tan Tiancheng, 12. Hou Sen (Gk) 24. Li Hangbo Yellow cards: Xinxin, Chengdong Red cards: Nil

Central Coast Mariners FC: 12. Liam Reddy (Gk), 3. Joshua Rose, 5. Zac Anderson, 7. John Hutchinson (C), 8. Nick Montgomery, 11. Nick Fitzgerald, 15. Storm Roux, 19. Matthew Simon, 20. Bernie Ibini (27. Isaka Cernak 61-), 25. Eddy Bosnar (6. Brent Griffiths 80-), 28. Glen Trifiro (9. Mitchell Duke 69-) Substitutes not used: 1. Justin Pasfield (Gk), 4. Marcel Seip, 26. Kim Seung-yong, 29. Matt Sim Yellow cards: Hutchinson, Montgomery Red cards: Nil

Referee: Nagor Amir Noor Mohamed (Malaysia) Attendance: 32,198