A classy brace by former Socceroo Mile Sterjovski helped Central Coast Mariners secure one of the Club’s greatest ever triumphs in Gosford on Tuesday.
A classy brace by former Socceroo Mile Sterjovski helped Central Coast Mariners secure one of the Club-s greatest ever triumphs in Gosford on Tuesday.
Up against the reigning - and indeed back-to-back - J.League Champions, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Phil Moss-s side fought tooth and nail to come from a goal down to earn a famous win over their highly regarded opponents from the land of the rising sun.
The win also gave the Mariners- hopes of advancing to the knockout phase of Asia-s premier club competition a significant boost, with results in the Club-s home fixtures crucial to the team-s aspirations to emerge from what appears to be a tightly contested Group F.
In truth it was Hiroshima who started the game the brighter of the two sides, with Liam Reddy having to field a purposeful volley from range in the opening minute of play.
The ‘keeper needed to be at his brilliant best again shortly after, as Sanfrecce midfielder Yojiro Takahagi sent an audacious effort at goal from near the halfway line. Reddy-s fingertip save forced a corner, from which loose defending allowed defender Tsukasa Shiotani to head home the first goal of the match.
But it would take the Mariners just moments to restore parity to the clash, with South Korean attacker Kim Seung-yong breaking sharply before finding former LOSC Lille and FC Basel man Sterjovski with an incisive pass. Sterjovski raced onto the pass before sending his strike beyond Takuto Hayashi to make the score 1-1.
If Sterjovski-s first goal oozed experience, his second underlined why he has enjoyed one of the longest and most distinguished careers in modern Australian football. Having intercepted possession following an errant pass out from the Sanfrecce defence, Sterjovski cut inside his marker before sending a stunning drive into the back of the net from distance.
While Sterjovski-s second - and ultimately match winning - goal was aided by a deflection, no one could doubt the intent from the former Australia gun, and one of the most humble professionals in the Hyundai A-League.
Sanfrecce dominated the majority of possession in the second stanza, however efforts from Kazuhiko Chiba and Asano Takuma were well saved by Reddy as the Mariners worked hard to deny their Group F rivals many clear-cut opportunities to leave Australia with a point, or better, to their credit.
Indeed, the yellow and navy-s strong defensive play combined with effort in attack ultimately paid dividends, as Moss and many of his men secured one of the best wins in their careers with the Central Coast.
Following the match, Moss hailed not only the win over the J.League giants, but the effort of his squad.
“Obviously it-s a very proud moment for the Club and a very famous victory for the Central Coast Mariners and for the A-League, so I am very, very proud of my players tonight,” he said.
“I hope that tonight gives the squad the belief to go on with things in the A-League now. I have just said to them that they didn-t just get the result tonight, they deserved the result. I think that-s an important thing to come out of the game - we didn-t just hold our own we played some quality football, and we threatened on a number of occasions.”
“Liam Reddy had probably two or three saves to make - one from halfway - throughout the game. That-s testament to our defensive structure and our attitude to defend. I thought the desperation inside our box to defend was excellent tonight.”
Like many others following the game in interviews and on social media, Moss paid tribute to goal-getter Sterjovski whose strikes ultimately separated Central Coast and Sanfrecce.
“I am so happy for Mile,” he said. “He-s such a great guy, he-s such a fantastic professional, he-s been so important for us on and off the field and he really wound the clock back tonight.”
“I could sense yesterday when I told him that he was going to start that his chest went out and his shoulders went back and you could just see that he was primed for a big game.”
“I think everyone in Australian football would be pleased for him because he is one of those real genuine guys who never has a bad word to say about anyone and he gets in every day and does his job, and that-s the result,” he said.
The win over Sanfrecce lifts the Mariners to second place in 2014 AFC Champions League Group F after two matchdays, with FC Seoul leading the way on four points, the Mariners three, Beijing Guoan two, and Sanfrecce Hiroshima one.
Indeed, the Mariners will be in China for 2014 AFC Champions League matchday 3 next week, with the yellow and navy taking on Gregorio Manzano-s men on Wednesday 19 March at the Beijing Workers Stadium.
Before that fixture, the Mariners host an #F3DERBY on Saturday 15 March against bitter rivals Newcastle Jets at Central Coast Stadium. Kick-off is at 7:45pm.
“It-s a big game on Saturday, there-s no hiding from that,” Moss said. “And being a derby against Newcastle makes it all the sweeter. These boys are used to the rigours of A-League and ACL being mixed together, so we-ll refocus tomorrow morning.”
“I hope the main thing to come out of this is belief. If the boys can go into Saturday-s derby with the belief that they went into tonight-s game with, then anything is possible in the back end of the season,” Moss concluded.
Central Coast Mariners FC (AUS): 2 (Sterjovski 23-, 32-) Sanfrecce Hiroshima (JPN): 1 (Shiotani 21-) Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Central Coast Mariners FC (AUS): 3. Joshua ROSE, 5. Zac ANDERSON, 7. John HUTCHINSON (C), 8. Nick MONTGOMERY, 11. Nick FITZGERALD (20. Bernie IBINI 868-), 12. Liam REDDY (Gk), 15. Storm ROUX, 19. Matthew SIMON (9. Mitchell DUKE 60-), 21. Mile STERJOVSKI (29. Matt SIM 85-), 25. Eddy BOSNAR, 26. Kim SEUNG-YONG Substitutes not used: 1. Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 6. Brent GRIFFITHS, 27. Isaka CERNAK, 28. Glen TRIFIRO Yellow cards: Simon Red cards: Nil
Sanfrecce Hiroshima (JPN): 1. Takuto HAYASHI (Gk), 4. Hiroki MIZUMOTO, 5. Kazuhiko CHIBA, 6. Toshihiro AOYAMA (C), 9. Naoki ISHIHARA, 10. Yojiro TAKAHAGI (36. Hayao KAWABE 80-), 17. Park HYUNGJIN, 18. Yoshifumi KASHIWA (24. Gakuto NOTSUDA 54-), 29. Asano TAKUMA, 30. Kosei SHIBAKASI (22. Yusuke MINAGAWA 87-), 33. Tsukasa SHIOTANI Substitutes not used: 13. Takuya MASUDA (Gk), 25. Yusuke CHAJIMA, 28. Takuya MARUTANI, 37. Kazuya MIYAHARA Yellow cards: Nil Red cards: Nil
Referee: Abdulrahman Abdou (Qatar) Attendance: 2,168