Match Report | Mariners exit Asia with heads held high

Central Coast Mariners’ 2014 AFC Champions League campaign came to an end in Japan on Wednesday, with Phil Moss’s men suffering a narrow 1-0 defeat against back-to-back J.League winners Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Central Coast Mariners- 2014 AFC Champions League campaign came to an end in Japan on Wednesday, with Phil Moss-s men suffering a narrow 1-0 defeat against back-to-back J.League winners Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

A 72nd minute free kick by defender Tsukasa Shiotani - which took a heavy deflection and was ultimately credited to team-mate Yamagishi Satoru - was all that separated the two sides at Hiroshima-s Big Arch Stadium, though the Mariners can leave the land of the rising sun proud of their efforts in this season-s version of Asia-s top club competition.

Indeed, the Mariners gained two wins in this year-s edition of the AFC Champions League, and were only edged 1-0 on their final two Group F matchdays against last year-s runners up, FC Seoul, and Hajime Moriyasu-s Hiroshima respectively.

With Choi Yong-soo-s Seoul defeating Beijing Guoan 2-1 in the Korean Republic capital on Wednesday to ensure they topped the section, the Mariners needed only a point to progress to the knockout phase of Asia-s elite for a consecutive year.

However Satoru-s goal from Shiotani-s skewed effort from outside the box with just 18 minutes remaining ultimately put an end to the yellow and navy-s continental campaign.

Central Coast defender Brent Griffiths was sent off just before Satoru-s goal, with the Mariners substitute having fouled Naoki Ishihara as he charged towards goal.

Despite the defeat, Mariners boss Phil Moss was full of praise for his squad post match.

“Firstly I would like to congratulate Sanfrecce Hiroshima for getting through to the round of 16,” Moss said in his post game press conference.

“[But] I would like to pay tribute to my players, my team, for what was a fantastic defensive performance. We came very close to getting the point that we needed to get through.”

“We didn't come here to play for a draw, we came here looking for a win. We didn-t have the greatest night on the ball, at time we needed to keep possession better than what we did, but we were up against a very good outfit, so I am very proud of my players.”

“We go back to Australia with our heads held high, and we gave it our best shot.”

Moss said that his men are motivated to be part of the AFC Champions League again in 2015.

“It-s [the AFC Champions League] a great competition and it has helped us significantly this year. It has helped develop our players, and is opening doors for everyone involved at the Club.”

“For me, one of the key rewards of winning this weekend against Western Sydney Wanderers is getting another crack at the AFC Champions League next year.”

“We were just 18 minutes away from a place in the round of 16, so this group of players know how close they have come to the opportunity to give the AFC Champions League knockout phase a real shake.”

“We want to be back in the competition in 2015 so we can keep developing in Asia, representing the Hyundai A-League internationally, and impressing our own Club brand on the millions of football fans across the continent.”

Central Coast Mariners- attention immediately shifts to this weekend-s Hyundai A-League Semi Final showdown against Wanderers at Parramatta-s Pirtek Stadium.

The team will fly from Hiroshima to Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon, transit to Tokyo-s Narita Airport by bus, then fly overnight to Sydney.

A light training session will be held at Pirtek Stadium on Friday afternoon, before the yellow and navy go head-to-head with the red and blacks for a spot in the 2014 Hyundai A-League Grand Final.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1 (Satoru 72-) Central Coast Mariners FC 0 Hiroshima Big Arch Stadium, Hiroshima, Japan Attendance: 9,778 Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)