Mariners seal spot alongside Asia's elite

MIXED emotions ran through Central Coast Stadium on Tuesday as the Central Coast Mariners progressed to the last 16 of the AFC Champions League for the first time despite a 3-0 loss to Group H winners Kashiwa Reysol.

MIXED emotions ran through Central Coast Stadium on Tuesday as the Central Coast Mariners progressed to the last 16 of the AFC Champions League for the first time despite a 3-0 loss to Group H winners Kashiwa Reysol.

Second half goals to Japanese international Masato Kudo as well as brilliant Brazilian-s Cleo and Leandro Domingues accounted for the Mariners, however Graham Arnold-s team progressed to the knockout phase of the competition courtesy of Guizhou Renhe-s inability to defeat Suwon Bluewings in China.

Indeed, after referee Valentin Kovalenko-s full time whistle in Gosford news trickled onto the pitch that Seo Jung-won-s Suwon had secured a 2-2 draw with Gong Lei-s Guizhou in Guiyang, meaning the Mariners- passage to the knockout phase of the tournament had been confirmed.

The Mariners fielded an almost identical lineup to their A-League Grand Final winning starting eleven for the 2013 AFC Champions League Matchday 6 meeting with the “Sun Kings”. Only midfielder Nick Montgomery - suspended for the A-League decider - replaced Oliver Bozanic in the Central Coast engine room.

Before the game Kashiwa had secured first place in Group H, however Nelsinho Baptista put forward a full strength outfit giving credit and respect to the newly crowned A-League Champions.

From the outset Central Coast piled plenty of pressure on the J-League Club. Joshua Rose fired two shots away in the opening stages, his closest thumping into the side netting.

For the majority of the first half Central Coast pressed and Arnold-s team conjured their best chance in the 31st minute when Daniel McBreen made a break down the right flank. McBreen then released Bernie Ibini who used his footwork to play in Pedj Bojic. Bojic whipped in a cross to McBreen who tried to volley home but unfortunately failed to beat the Kashiwa backline.

The sides hit the sheds on level terms but the A-League Golden Boot winner McBreen was eager to start the second half with a bang. The evergreen striker was unlucky not to find the opening goal of the game in the 49th minute when he lashed a powerful drive at goal following a deflected cross. Korea Republic international Kim Changsoo was in the right place at the right time for Reysol as he blocked the ball off the line.

Chances for the Mariners continued to fall as Rose made a surging run down the left and ducked inbetween the defence to fire a shot at goal in the 58th minute. Takanori Sugeno was well positioned to claim the Rockhampton-born flyer-s attempt.

Despite the positive play from Central Coast, the visitors would take the lead only a minute later. Kudo ran onto a pinpoint through in the Mariners area and made no mistake in sliding the ball beyond the advancing Mathew Ryan and into the back of the net.

The goal served as a real momentum changer and for much of the next 20 minutes Kashiwa controlled the play. Kim began to advance up the pitch to collaborate with Domingues, Reysol-s key man.

In the 79th minute Kashiwa doubled their advantage. After a period of confusion in the box, the ball fell nicely for striker Cleo who tapped past Ryan to make the score 2-0.

The visitor-s second goal wasn-t enough to deter the home side who continued to burst forward. Rose worked incredibly hard on his wing to provide chances up front, and time and again raced back to ensure he didn-t leave a hole in defence.

However some individual brilliance by Kashiwa-s Domingues put the game to bed in the 86th minute. From a free kick, Domingues curled a shot that just evaded the best goalkeeping efforts of Ryan.

Less than two minutes after the final whistle the Mariners received confirmation from China that Guizhou had drawn with Suwon in Guiyang. With the players, coaching staff and fans shifting into celebration, it was like the team had already forgotten about their loss to Reysol as they were filled with the excitement of having achieved yet another milestone in Club history.

The Mariners will face either China-s Guangzhou Evergrande or Korea Republic-s Jeonbuk Hyundai in the 2013 AFC Champions League round of 16. The first game of the home and away tie will be played at Central Coast Stadium on Wednesday 15 May, 2013.

Central Coast Mariners 0 Kashiwa Reysol 3 (Kudo 59-, Cleo 79- Domingues 86-) Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (Gk), 2. Daniel MCBREEN, 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON (c), 9. Bernie IBINI, 14. Michael MCGLINCHEY, 16. Trent SAINSBURY, 18. Nick MONTGOMERY (11. Oliver BOZANIC 66-), 21. Mile STERJOVSKI (19. Mitchell DUKE 63-) Substitutes not used: 20. Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 5. Zachary ANDERSON, 8. Adriano PELLEGRINO, 13. Brent GRIFFITHS, 29. Nick FITZGERALD Yellow cards: Nil Red cards: Nil

Kashiwa Reysol: 3. Naoya KONDO (c), 5. Tatsuya MASUSHIMA, 9. Masato KUDO (18. Junya TANAKA 87-), 10. Leandro DOMINGUES (19. Yu KIMURA 90+1-), 11. CLEO, 21. Takanori SUGENO (Gk), 15. Jorge WAGNER, 23. Hirofumi WATANABE, 27. Kim CHANGSOO, 28. Ryoichi KURISAWA, 29. Hiroyuki TANIGUCHI Substitutes not used: 4. Daisuke SUZUKI, 7. Hidekazu OTANI, 16. Koji INADA (Gk), 20. Akimi BARADA, 30. Ryosuke YAMANAKA Yellow cards: Changsoo 40- Red cards: Nil

Referee: Valentin Kovalenko (UZB) Attendance: 7,623