CENTRAL Coast Mariners outclassed China’s Guizhou Renhe in Gosford on Wednesday, securing a crucial 2-1 AFC Champions League Group H victory.
CENTRAL Coast Mariners outclassed China-s Guizhou Renhe in Gosford on Wednesday, securing a crucial 2-1 AFC Champions League Group H victory.
The Mariners enhanced their chances of qualifying for the knockout phase of Asia-s premier club competition via second half goals from defensive duo Pedj Bojic and Trent Sainsbury.
Bojic put the Mariners ahead early in the second half with a stunning left foot strike, before the dangerous Zvjezdan Misimovic floated in a troublesome free kick on 71 minutes for Guizhou. Unfortunately for Graham Arnold-s team, outstanding left back Joshua Rose glanced Misimovic-s effort onto the post before the ball found its way into the net via the chest of Mariners custodian Mathew Ryan.
Central Coast showed character late in their dominant performance, and sealed a deserved win - just their second ever in the AFC Champions League - in the 80th minute.
The impressive Michael McGlinchey-s turned his defender inside out wide on the right, before delivering an inch-perfect cross to a charging Sainsbury. The 21-year-old made no mistake in placing his confident header into the back of the net to deliver Central Coast all three points, and score his first ever competitive goal for the Club.
The win propelled the Mariners to four points from three AFC Champions League matchdays, ensuring their fate in this year-s competition is well and truly in their own hands heading into the second half of the group stage.
Despite the game being goalless at halftime, the first 45 was full of energy as the sides moved the ball around swiftly on the slick surface.
The first talking point of the match was an apparent handball committed by Guizhou-s Wu Wei in his own area just three minutes in that was overlooked by the officials.
Former German Bundesliga winner Misimovic is known for his dangerous free kicks and whipped one in from the left side in the seventh minute. The vicious cross made its way through several defenders and just eluded the onrushing Yu Hai.
The Mariners looked to be on top for majority of the first half although the biggest chance of the opening 45 fell to Gong Lei-s team in the 32nd minute through Zlatan Muslimovic. The former Udinese attacker found himself one-on-one with Ryan after linking up well with his countryman Misimovic.
Muslimovic-s first touch was just too heavy, with Ryan able to thwart his close range shot. With the ball loose, Ryan reached around Muslimovic and pulled the ball onto the attacker and over the goal line.
The second half took off in cracking fashion with the Mariners- elusive wingback Bojic bending a shot from outside the area beyond Guizhou ‘keeper Zhang Li just six minutes after the restart.
After some positive Guizhou play, the Mariners crafted two good chances to extend their advantage in quick succession.
First, Bernie Ibini fired off a powerful shot that was stopped by Zhang, while in the 57th minute the Hyundai A-League-s Golden Boot winner, Daniel McBreen, had a chance to double his side-s lead from close range. Unfortunately, McBreen scooped his shot over the bar following strong work from Rose and Ibini.
It was a Central Coast own goal that leveled the scores in Gosford with less than 20 minutes remaining, before Sainsbury made no mistake with his header less than ten minutes from time to win the game for the hosts.
Following the game, Central Coast Mariners boss Arnold said his team knew the game against Guizhou was a “must win”, and expressed his delight in his team-s performance against one of China-s biggest clubs.
“Three points was a must tonight,” Arnold said. “It was either three points or bust for us.”
“To be able to get the three points and perform that way was exceptional.”
“It could have easily been three or four nil before they scored. It was a very sloppy goal to give away. We gave them energy to get back into the game, but overall it was a fantastic performance.”
“I think we-ve shown over the last three years that we belong in the (AFC) Champions League.”
Central Coast Mariners play their next AFC Champions League fixture next Tuesday 9 April away to Guizhou Renhe in Guiyang.
With Japan-s Kashiwa Reysol having dismantled Korea Republic-s Suwon Bluewings 6-2 in the other Group H game played on Wednesday, a positive result in China would further enhance the Mariners- hopes of reaching the last 16 of Asia-s most prestigious club tournament.
Central Coast Mariners 2 (Bojic 51-, Sainsbury 80-) Guizhou Renhe 1 (Ryan (OG) 71-)
Central Coast Mariners (AUS): 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 84-), 21. Mile STERJOVSKI Substitutes not used: 13. Brent GRIFFITHS, 15. Brad MCDONALD, 17. Anthony CACERES, 20. Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 24. Hayden MORTON, 29. Nick FITZGERALF Yellow cards: Hutchinson, Ibini Red cards: Nil
Guizhou Renhe (CHN): 4. Jonas SALLEY, 5. Wu WEI (13. Shi LIANG 68-), 7. NANO, 9. Zlatan MUSLIMOVIC, 10. Zvjezdan MISIMOVIC, 12. Zhang LIE (Gk), 15. Chen JIE (25. Li KAI 58-), 17. Sun JIHAI (c), 21. Yu HAI, 29. Yang HAO (14. Yang YIHU 85-), 31. Rao WEIHUI Substitutes not used: 1. Jun SHEN (Gk), 8. Li CHUNYU, 27. Qu BO, 37. Yu RUI Yellow cards: Kai Red cards: Nil
Central Coast Stadium, Gosford Referee: Abdullah BALOUSHI (Qatar)