Spirited Mariners drowned in Japan

Down but not out, the Central Coast Mariners’ AFC Champions League campaign witnessed its second loss this evening despite a performance of tremendous heart and character that was ultimately not enough to prevent a 2-1 loss to Kawasaki Frontale in unrelenting Tokyo rain.

Down but not out, the Central Coast Mariners- AFC Champions League campaign witnessed its second loss this evening despite a performance of tremendous heart and character that was ultimately not enough to prevent a 2-1 loss to Kawasaki Frontale in unrelenting Tokyo rain.

Matt Simon netted his second goal of the campaign midway through the second half in response to Juninho-s strike just seconds into the second stanza, before Renatinho sealed all three points for the home side with nine minutes remaining.

Beaten comprehensively by the same opponent thirteen days earlier, the Mariners were far more composed on this slippery occasion at the Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium, where the torrid conditions appeared to suit the slick passing hosts from the outset.

The Mariners now have two matches remaining in their Group H campaign to salvage any chance of a top-two finish and subsequent progression to the Round of 16, but will finish off the first stage via the Korea Republic somewhat buoyed by this vastly improved performance.

"We-re very disappointed with the result, we came here after a very poor performance on the Central Coast and with a game plan to make it very hard for Kawasaki and generally we did a very good job," said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna after the match.

"We did well to get back into the game, but again, we didn-t clear a corner properly and two set plays have cost us two goals.

"We frustrated Kawasaki most of the night and we created most of the best chances, so I-m very proud of how the team has come back from a 5-0 defeat, but very disappointed that we didn-t take anything from the game."

Five starters at Central Coast Stadium a fortnight ago were non-starters this evening - four of which were relegated to the bench - with Pedj Bojic, Andrew Clark, Andre Gumprecht, Adam Kwasnik and Matt Simon all earning their chances from the opening whistle.

As expected, Kawasaki unveiled their cast of exceptional talents that bedazzled and bewildered at Central Coast Stadium last outing, with Japanese international Kengo Nakamura pulling the strings behind impressive attacking threesome Jong Tae-se, Juninho and Vitor Junior.

Though impressive in patches, Kawasaki-s highly regarded final third were kept at bay by a disciplined Mariners backline that spared Danny Vukovic of much work between the posts until the opening minute of the second half.

When Jong Tae-se was first to a free kick, Vukovic could only parry the header from the DPR Korea international into the path of Brazilian Juninho, who calmly slotted home from close range to hand the home side the lead.

The match opener was a cruel blow for the Mariners, who were enterprising to this point and perhaps unlucky not to be in front after goal scorer Simon forced a desperate first half save from Eiji Kawashima after nodding down a sweet Adam Kwasnik cross.

Simon wasn-t to be denied a second time though when poking home an Andrew Clark through ball from the fringe of the penalty area - a typical Simon goal that underlined the tenacity and endeavour of the Qantas Socceroo.

Further chances fell to Simon and Kwasnik, who was relishing his first competitive start in yellow and navy since returning to the club from the Wellington Phoenix, though the dagger through the Mariners- heart came close to full time from Brazilian Renatinho.

The diminutive 21-year-old got on the end of a Kawasaki set piece and duly finished at the far post to secure Kawasaki-s third triumph of the group stage and second over the Mariners from as many attempts.

While the Mariners were unquestionably second best against Kawasaki at their iconic bay side home a fortnight ago, they could be considered unlucky on this evening when they more than matched an opponent that is expected to seriously challenge for continental silverware in November.

In tonight-s other Group H fixture, Tianjin Teda held Pohang Steelers to a 0-0 draw at the Tianjin Teda Stadium, meaning the equation for the Mariners is now a simple one - no less than two wins will be required for the yellow and navy to have a chance of qualification for the next phase of the competition.

"After last week we had to change and started with three up front with one through the middle and when we didn-t have the ball we had to drop back and frustrate Kawasaki," said McKinna.

"We were happy with how that went, we limited Kawasaki-s goal scoring chances.

"I-m very, very disappointed again with our defending from set pieces - in general play I was very happy, but at set pieces we were very poor."

The Mariners- inaugural AFC Champions League campaign will continue at Korea-s Steelyard on Tuesday, 5 May, when the yellow and navy will face K-League heavyweights Pohang Steelers. Kick off is at 2pm AEST.

The Mariners will return to their Central Coast Stadium home for Match Day 6 of the AFC Champions League to face the challenge of Chinese Super League heavyweights Tianjin Teda on Tuesday, 19 May. Kick off is at 8pm.

Tickets for this match are on sale from Ticketek outlets, from the Ticketek website - www.ticketek.com.au, or via phone on 132 849.

Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 20. Danny Vukovic (gk), 2. Andre Gumprecht, 4. Pedj Bojic (5. Bradley Porter 81-), 7. John Hutchinson, 8. Dean Heffernan, 15. Andrew Clark (11. Dylan Macallister 84-), 16. Nigel Boogaard, 17. Matthew Osman (3. Shane Huke 81-), 18. Alex Wilkinson, 19. Matt Simon, 23. Adam Kwasnik

Unused Subs 6. David D-Apuzzo, 10. Adrian Caceres, 22. Nick Rizzo, 30. Andrew Redmayne (gk)

Yellow Cards Boogaard 36-, Osman 39-, Clark 79-, Gumprecht 84- Red Cards None Goals Simon 59-

Kawasaki Frontale 1. Eiji Kawashima (gk), 2. Hiroki Ito, 4. Yusuke Igawa, 9. Jong Tae-se (15. Takuro Yajima 79-), 10. Juninho (17. Kosuke Kikuchi 88-), 11. Vitor Junior (34. Renatinho 65-), 13. Shuhei Terada, 14. Kengo Nakamura, 18. Tomonobu Yokoyama, 19. Yusuke Mori, 29. Hiroyuki Taniguchi

Unused Subs 8. Satoru Yamagishi, 16. Satoshi Kukinho, 21. Takashi Aizawa (gk), 23. Kyohei Noborizato

Yellow Cards Igawa 19-, Mori 73- Red Cards None Goals Juninho 47-, Renatinho 81-

Referee Almarzouqi Fareed Ali Mohamed Hassan (United Arab Emirates) Crowd 8,419