Mariners learning the Asian way

The Central Coast Mariners have today learned some valuable lessons ahead of their maiden AFC Champions League campaign after going down 2-1 to Chinese Super League (CSL) challengers Jiangsu Sainty at the Kunshan Sports Centre.

The Central Coast Mariners have today learned some valuable lessons ahead of their maiden AFC Champions League campaign after going down 2-1 to Chinese Super League (CSL) challengers Jiangsu Sainty at the Kunshan Sports Centre.

After taking the lead just before half time courtesy of a Matthew Osman header from a Bradley Porter corner, the hosts responded through Deng Zhuoxiang and Qin Sheng in the second half to secure a hard fought victory in near zero degree temperatures in China-s east.

The Mariners will take away some valuable pointers from their first foray into Asia, particularly in regards to the gamesmanship and refereeing peculiarities that they will surely encounter throughout the AFC Champions League 2009, notwithstanding the difference in football culture between Australia and their south-east Asian neighbours.

Despite the score line, the Mariners were impressive in patches and always competitive, with Football Manager Lawrie McKinna utilising his entire 18-man squad at some stage – with each player certainly benefiting from the various formations and structures that were experimented with throughout.

“There were some good points for us to take out of the game – we got every sub on, which was important, whereas on Tuesday we-ll be looking to put out more of a settled team,” said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna after the match.

“There were a few promising things, if we had come in at half time and kept our settled team I-m sure we would have held on to the result, but it was important to give everybody a run today.

“It was a good hit out and overall we got a bit out of the game.”

From the opening whistle, the Mariners were represented by a new look outfit that included four changes to the eleven that last wore yellow and navy in a competitive fixture at Suncorp Stadium a fortnight ago.

Nik Mrdja-s promotion at the expense of Dylan Macallister was a straight swap, while John Hutchinson-s advance to the front line meant a start for new recruit Shane Huke alongside Nigel Boogaard in central midfield.

With Dean Heffernan and Danny Vukovic back in Australia preparing for the Socceroos- upcoming AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Kuwait, Adrian Caceres was handed a start on the left hand side of midfield, while Andrew Redmayne assumed responsibilities in goal.

Jiangsu Sainty-s line up featured many players that were crucial to the club-s promotion from China-s second-tier Jia League last season, plus a half-dozen recruits from former CSL outfit Wuhan Guanggu, who folded towards the end of the 2008 CSL season.

The Mariners were dealt an early blow after Hutchinson was on the receiving end of a barely believable high kick that saw Jiangsu defender Tang Tian connect a full boot to the face of the Mariners striker.

Hutchinson was immediately substituted for Macallister, whose physical presence unsettled the Jiangsu backline, who were simultaneously struggling to cope with Mrdja on occasion.

Shortly before the break the visitors netted the match opener when Osman nodded home Porter-s searching corner at the far post – a reward that the Mariners perhaps didn-t deserve on the back of a largely disjointed first half showing.

The second was almost a complete contradiction, with the Mariners controlling proceedings only to concede an equaliser midway through the half and then the match winner with virtually the final kick of the game.

The injection of Andre Gumprecht, Greg Owens and Nick Rizzo into the Mariners midfield throughout the half ensured that the yellow and navy looked promising when going forward, while Pedj Bojic was a sound contributor in defence after replacing Paul O-Grady.

Perhaps the greatest positive for the Mariners came in the dying stages when Ahmad Elrich was introduced off the bench for Andrew Clark – ending five injury frustrated months on the sideline for the Qantas Socceroo.

“It-d be nice to get a result against Shandong Luneng, obviously they are one of the powerhouses in China and it would be good to put in a disciplined performance against them,” said McKinna.

“There were long parts of today-s game where we were very disciplined, but we-ve just been switching off and giving away bad goals and that-s what we did today.

“Hopefully we can keep our concentration levels up and Shandong will be a good team, but I-m sure we-ll be better for the run today.”

The Mariners- pre-AFC Champions League Chinese tour continues on Tuesday, 3 March against reigning Chinese Super League champions Shandong Luneng at the Shandong Provincial Stadium. Kick off is at 6pm AEDT.

The Mariners will next be in action in a competitive fixture for the kick off of the AFC Champions League 2009 at Central Coast Stadium against Korean FA Cup winners Pohang Steelers on Wednesday, 11 March. Kick off is at 8pm.

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Match Details

Central Coast Mariners 30. Andrew Redmayne (gk), 3. Shane Huke, 5. Bradley Porter, 7. John Hutchinson, 9. Nik Mrdja, 10. Adrian Caceres, 13. Paul O-Grady, 15. Andrew Clark, 16. Nigel Boogaard, 17. Matthew Osman, 18. Alex Wilkinson

Substitutes 2. Andre Gumprecht, 4. Pedj Bojic, 11. Dylan Macallister, 12. Greg Owens, 21. Ahmad Elrich, 22. Nick Rizzo, 23. Adam Kwasnik

Yellow Cards None
Red Cards None
Goals Osman 40-