Asian Football Confederation - Champions League 2012

Mariners match J-League stars
by Chris Dunkerley

Group G - Round 2 - 1st Leg
7:30pm, Wednesday 21 March, 2012
at Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (Patrick Zwaanswijk 28')
drew with
Nagoya Grampus FC 1
(Markus Tanaka 21')

The Central Coast Mariners and Nagoya Grampus of Japan have drawn 1-1 in their second game of Group G in the AFC Champions League - in front of 5,103 fans on a balmy Wednesday night at Gosford.

Interest centred on Josh Kennedy's appearance for the visitors, but Graham Arnold showed he could take the attention away with a formation that melded two young attacking midfielders, Mustafa Amini and Tomas Rogic, into the same lineup, and left specialist strikers on the bench.

With the Hong Kong referee still finding out which continent his feet were touching the game was ragged by all concerned in the first 10 mins, with only a 'speculator' by Abe Shohei. Josh Kennedy's obvious tussle with the defensive duo of Patrick Zwaanswijk and Alex Wilkinson however came out early in favour of the home side, with the big striker earning an 6th minute yellow card.

The visitors were going down like novices on an ice skating rink and it was one such a farce when clearly Tamada Keiji lost the ball to Pedj Bojic out wide on the left, and went down holding his toe. The referee inexplicably awarded a free kick to much derision from the nearby crowd.

The free kick was curled into the box where it was leapt on by Japanese international defender Markus Tulio Tanaka pushing between Joshua Rose and Zwaanswijk. He stabbed the ball low wide of Mat Ryan in the Coast's goal, taking the lead in the 21st minute. 0-1

The goal galvanised the home side, who pushed up. Winning the ball out wide on the left, Tomas Rogic lifted it far to over the right where Zwaanswijk rose high over Abe Shohei to head into the top right of goal, with Nagoya Grampus 'keeper Seigo Narazaki stranded on his line. 1-1

Mathew Ryan was quick to go down to his right to cover a Shohei Abe shot on target with a diving save in the 37th minute.

Olly Bozanic almost created a second for the Mariners in the 43rd minute before the break but glove-man Narazaki was quickly off his line to block Troy Hearfield's shot.

The second half mainly saw the Mariners dominate and create chances, with Bozanic and Amini forcing saves from the Narazaki.

Tomas Rogic also created, holding the ball and turning his marker he let fly from 25m but it sailed just wide on the left with the 'keeper wrong footed.

Certainly on this display Nagoya aren't of the quality Kashima Antlers displayed on their ACL visit, but the Coast did very well and look to be settling into the competition.

Both teams were out for the win but it ended without the score-board changing, however with the other Group game ending with Tianjin Teda drawing 1-1 with Korea Republicís Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, all four teams are on 2 points.

"I cannot be more proud of my players," Mariners coach Graham Arnold said. "We had four or five kids out there and they were all superb. I thought we played fantastic football. The first half was good, the second half was real good. I felt in the end we had the best chance to win it, I think we shaded it. We got them at a good time."

Nagoya coach Dragan Stojkovic felt a draw was a good result for his team. "From a technical point of view I thought we played better football," he said. "But the Mariners didn't give up. Generally speaking, I think a draw was a good result. We came without three regular players. We really tried to do our best to win but a draw away, that's not bad."

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