The Central Coast Mariners’ quest for AFC Champions League silverware has been vanquished in the scorching Korean sun today, under which the visiting Mariners were defeated 3-2 by the Pohang Steelers to rule out any chance of the yellow and navy progressing to the Round of 16.
The Central Coast Mariners- quest for AFC Champions League silverware has been vanquished in the scorching Korean sun today, under which the visiting Mariners were defeated 3-2 by the Pohang Steelers to rule out any chance of the yellow and navy progressing to the Round of 16.
Two strikers stole the show at the Steelyard, though it was the one wearing the Steelers crest that secured the points with Brazilian marksman Denilson netting a hat trick to counter Adam Kwasnik-s second half double.
Spirited and courageous as they have so often been throughout their maiden Asian experience, the Mariners were ultimately undone by the quality and precision of the Korean FA Cup holders, who now join Japan-s Kawasaki Frontale as Group H-s Round of 16 representatives.
Needing a win to keep alive their faint hopes of progression to the next stage, the Mariners so nearly pulled off what would have been a stunning upset against the two-time AFC Champions League winners.
Both sides traded the lead over ninety absorbing minutes before Denilson-s far post header two minutes from time sunk the Mariners and their continental hopes in front of 11,539 vocal Pohang supporters.
“We started off very poorly, gave away a penalty and gave Pohang plenty of chances in the first few minutes,” said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna after the match.
“It took us a bit of time to get into the game and we were glad to come in only 1-0 down at half time.
“Once we scored our first goal, I believed that we were the better team and once we went up 2-1 I thought that we could extend that and go further in front.
“Again, we-re very disappointed that we didn-t get at least a point, particularly with the way the game was going in the second half where we felt that we could win the game.”
Already fragile by way of confidence and form, the Mariners- nerves suffered an early blow when Pedj Bojic – otherwise one of the Mariners- best on ground – was adjudged to have fouled his opponent in the penalty area following a swift Pohang counter attack.
Denilson stepped up to the spot and slammed home his penalty to hand the hosts a one-goal advantage after only six minutes and for the remainder of the first half, the Mariners were largely second best.
Refreshed and rejuvenated, the Mariners were vastly improved after the break and were rewarded accordingly on 54 minutes when the Mariners- all-time greatest goal scorer Kwasnik slotted his first in a competitive fixture since returning to the Central Coast from Wellington.
Kwasnik ghosted behind the Pohang defence and showed great poise to slide his left-footed effort past Pohang ‘keeper Shin Hwa-Yong before immediately setting about retrieving the ball from the back of the net, such was the visitors- requirement for all three points.
Just three minutes later, Kwasnik had his second and the Mariners had the lead that they longed for when the 25-year-old swung in a troublesome free kick from the left flank that deceived all onlookers before resting inside the far post.
This swift double blow was just reward for an enterprising second half showcase from the Mariners that showed greater promise with each passing second.
However, with the Pohang heat – some 27°C from kick off – beginning to take its toll on a weary Mariners eleven battling an opponent in the midst of its domestic season, it soon seemed inevitable that the hosts would hit back.
That they did in the 71st minute when Denilson found space in the penalty area to force a hard and low shot past Danny Vukovic and again put the Mariners- AFC Champions League ambitions to bed temporarily.
In search of a match winning and campaign-defining goal, the Mariners had their hearts broken and dreams of Asian glory shattered when Denilson-s third found the back of the net at the death – a goal that means the Mariners will play for pride only on Match Day 6 against Tianjin Teda.
“Obviously we can-t qualify for the Round of 16, so we-ll use the Tianjin game as preparation for the next Hyundai A-League season,” said McKinna.
“We-ll try a few new players that haven-t played, we-ll try to win the game but we-ll freshen things up.”
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.
Central Coast Mariners 20. Danny Vukovic (gk), 2. Andre Gumprecht, 3. Shane Huke (5. Bradley Porter 46-), 4. Pedj Bojic, 7. John Hutchinson, 8. Dean Heffernan, 11. Dylan Macallister (22. Nick Rizzo 76-), 15. Andrew Clark, 18. Alex Wilkinson, 19. Matt Simon, 23. Adam Kwasnik (21. Ahmad Elrich 66-)
Unused Subs 6. David D-Apuzzo, 25. Nathan Sherlock, 27. Matthew Lewis, 30. Andrew Redmayne (gk)
Yellow Cards Bojic 7-, Simon 27-
Red Cards None
Goals Kwasnik 54-, 57-
Pohang Steelers 1. Shin Hwa-Yong (gk), 2. Choi Hyo-Jin, 3. Kim Kwang-Suk, 5. Kim Tae-Su (8. Hwang Jin-Sung 59-), 6. Kim Gi-Dong, 10. Denilson, 16. Kim Jung-Kyum (22. No Byung-Jun 68-), 20. Shin Hyung-Min, 23. Ryu Chang-Hyun (7. Kim Jae-Sung 79-), 24. Hwang Jae-Won, 32. Kim Hyung-Il
Unused Subs 9. Stevica Ristik, 13. Cho Han-Bum, 14. Lee Kwang-Jae, 21. Song Dong-Jin (gk)
Yellow Cards None
Red Cards None
Goals Denilson 8-P, 71-, 88-
Referee Masoud Moradi (IR Iran)