Proud Mariners undone by Guizhou late show

A GALLANT, all Australian Central Coast Mariners outfit with an average age of just 23 was defeated 2-1 by big spending Chinese Super League side Guizhou Renhe in Guiyang on Tuesday evening.

A GALLANT, all Australian Central Coast Mariners outfit with an average age of just 23 was defeated 2-1 by big spending Chinese Super League side Guizhou Renhe in Guiyang on Tuesday evening.

The youthful Mariners team which arrived in southwest China just 36 hours before the fixture following an arduous journey from Australia was on track for an historic AFC Champions League victory deep into the game.

Striker Mitchell Duke had given Graham Arnold-s team a deserved one-nil lead in the 42nd minute of play from the penalty spot after midfielder Nick Fitzgerald was tripped in the box.

However despite the proud and inspired Central Coast side dominating plenty of the play, Guizhou-s star Bosnian duo of Zlatan Muslimovic and Zvjezdan Misimovic helped Gong Lei-s team turn the game in the final seven minutes to earn a win in front of 18,988 boisterous fans.

The gritty performance by the Mariners- primarily young side was clear for all to see, however the lack of international experience on the pitch for some of the young men, combined with Guizhou-s sprinkling of class plus the travel factor ultimately swung the contest in Renhe-s favour late on.

In the 83rd minute, Bosnian international striker Muslimovic collected possession wide on the left before cutting into the box and rifling a crisp right foot shot beyond Mathew Ryan.

And, just two minutes later it was Muslimovic-s international colleague Misimovic who cracked a left foot strike against Ryan-s right post to open a chance for former Chinese FIFA World Cup player Qu Bo. Sensing his opportunity, Bo fired the rebound on the angle into the back of the net.

Guizhou-s winner had a touch of good fortune about it with a Renhe player appearing to be standing in an offside position and within the eye-line of Mariners custodian Ryan when Bo struck his shot.

Nevertheless, the Guizhou players, coaching and management staff could care less about whether Bo-s goal was legitimate or not, with statements following the game by Renhe representatives reflecting that each individual will now pocket a USD$50,000 bonus for claiming all three AFC Champions League Group H points.

Unfortunately, Guizhou Renhe boss Lei lost his cool in the second stanza when his side were struggling to breakdown the determined Central Coast team. Disappointingly, Lei twice gestured to referee Mohammed Abdulla Hassam Mohamed that the Mariners had bribed the respected officials from the United Arab Emirates and Thailand.

Naturally, Central Coast Mariners officials in China were left feeling insulted by the utterly unfounded and unsporting accusations made by Coach Lei.

Following the match Mariners Head Coach Graham Arnold expressed his delight in the effort, endeavour and performance of his players.

“I was very, very happy with my team,” Arnold said. “Their average age was 23, I left seven of our best players at home and it was only in the last ten minutes because of fatigue that Guizhou ended up getting on top of us.”

“Guizhou were dangerous in the last ten minutes, but the in the first 80 minutes they didn-t have a shot on goal.”

“You expect a big money player like Muslimovic to make a difference to a match, and that-s what he and his fellow Bosnian, Misimovic did tonight.”

“Our young players will benefit from this experience. Tonight they have learnt that in international football it is critical that you take your chances and remain focussed on nullifying the threat of important players like Muslimovic, Misimovic, Sun Jihai and Qu Bo.”

“But really we had no problem with Guizhou at all. I thought they were very average for the first 80 minutes. It was only our young boys that got fatigued … otherwise the result would have been different.”

The Mariners leave Guiyang on Wednesday morning and have a 24-hour long trip to Australia-s Central Coast, including a seven-hour stopover in Guangzhou ahead of them.

The team will train on Friday and Saturday this week ahead of their sudden death Hyundai A-League Semi-Final clash with Melbourne Victory at Gosford-s Bluetongue Stadium on Sunday.

Guizhou Renhe 2 (Muslimovic 83-, Bo 85-) Central Coast Mariners 1 (Duke 42- (pen)) Guiyang Olympic Sports Centre, Guiyang

Guizhou Renhe (CHN): 3. Zhang CHENGLIN, 4. Jonas SALLEY, 7. NANO, 8. Lu CHUNYU (27. Qu BO 46-), 9. Zlatan MUSLIMOVIC, 10. Zvjezdan MISIMOVIC, 12. Zhang LIE (Gk), 17. Sun JIHAI (c), 21. Yu HAI, 29. Yang HAO (5. Wu WEI 75-), 31. Rao WEIHUI (14. Yang YIHU 63-) Substitutes not used:, 13. Shi LIANG, 15. Chen JIE, 22. Sheng PENG (Gk), 25. Li KI Yellow cards: Weihui, Misimovic Red cards: Nil

Central Coast Mariners (AUS): 1. Mathew RYAN (Gk), 5. Zach ANDERSON, 7. John HUTCHINSON (c), 8. Adriano PELLEGRINO (15. Brad MCDONALD 90+1), 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 13. Brent GRIFFITHS, 16. Trent SAINSBURY, 17. Anthony CACERES, 19. Mitchell DUKE, 24. Hayden MORTON, 29. Nick FITZGERALD (9. Bernie IBINI 61-) Substitutes not used: 20. Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 25. Michael NEILL Yellow cards: Duke, Ryan, Griffiths, Hutchinson Red cards: Nil

Referee: Mohammed Abdulla Hassam Mohamed (UAE) Attendance: 18,988