Mariners' Menpora mission on track

Central Coast Mariners made it two wins from two matches at the 2013 Menpora Cup in Indonesia with a 2-0 victory over Malaysia’s U-23 National Team.

Central Coast Mariners made it two wins from two matches at the 2013 Menpora Cup in Indonesia with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Malaysia-s U23 National Team (Harimau Muda) in Bandung on Sunday afternoon.

Matt Simon-s second goal of the tournament combined with a late Mitchell Duke strike ensured Graham Arnold-s men are well positioned to qualify for the Final of the eight team international invitational competition.

However, the Mariners still have some work to do if they are to make the tournament-s showpiece match in Malang. Group A rival Persib Bandung defeated Sriwijaya FC 2-1 in the fixture immediately following Central Coast-s win over Harimau Muda, to ensure they-re in with a chance to qualify for the Final in the Group-s last game.

The Mariners need only draw against the popular local Club to book their tickets to Malang, however a defeat to Djadjang Nurdjaman-s charges would eliminate Arnold-s side.

Eager to rotate his players throughout the tournament, Mariners boss Arnold made seven changes to his starting line-up for the game against Malaysia U-23, following the Club-s opening round 2-0 victory over Sriwijaya FC on Friday.

Despite the changes in personnel, the Mariners continued to play a solid, possession-based game, dominating the Young Tigers for the majority of the Group A encounter.

Wide men Nick Fitzgerald and Duke looked sharp in the early going, and both had efforts on goal blocked by desperate Harimau Muda defending following enterprising build up play.

Nevertheless, the pacey pair would play an integral role in Simon-s opener just past the half hour mark. From the left, Duke lifted an accurate pass to Fitzgerald in the box, with the former Brisbane Roar man in turn heading the ball back across goal. Sensing his opportunity, Simon evaded his marker to nod the ball beyond Malaysia custodian Mohd Izham Zaemizi Roslam.

After the break Duke continued to work tirelessly down the right flank. The recently capped Socceroo cannoned a left foot shot into a Harimau Muda defender ten minutes after the interval, before fellow attacker Fitzgerald lashed a shot into the side netting.

Ten minutes later Michael McGlinchey released Duke one-on-one with Mohd Izham, however the talented 22-year-old pushed his low shot wide of goal.

In a bid to draw Malaysia U23 level, midfielder Thamil Arasu tried his luck from range in the 85th minute, however his powerful shot whizzed wide of Liam Reddy-s left post.

Duke finally scored the goal his hardworking performance had warranted close to full time, slamming a rasping drive into the back of the net from just inside the area.

Arnold was pleased with how his side played in the hot, humid conditions just 48 hours after their first game of the tournament.

“It-s another good hit out,” he said. “We totally dominated the game - I don-t think Liam Reddy had a save to make. But he swept the backline very well and overall I was quite pleased with the effort.”

“This whole tournament and trip is about ourselves and I am seeing a lot of positive signs from what we-re doing. Our defence is strong, two clean sheets, we-ve pretty much limited both oppositions to one or two shots over the two games, and we-re creating plenty of chances.”

Simon is quickly making a name for himself in Indonesia having scored in both of the Club-s fixtures thus far.

“It-s always good to get on the scoresheet.” Simon said. “I-ve missed a bit of football in the past year but the team is getting through some minutes and it-s a good result for us.”

The former East Gosford Rams player added that he is looking forward to the Mariners- third and final Group A fixture against Persib Bandung on Tuesday. Persib-s fans are among the most passionate in Indonesia, and a near capacity crowd is anticipated at the 40,000 seat Stadion Si Jalak Harupat.

“We-ve seen that the crowd the first two games have packed the Stadium just after us so it-s going to be good to play them. It-s a night time game too so the boys are looking forward to that.”

Former Hyundai A-League marksman Sergio van Dijk is expected to make his first appearance in the tournament for Persib Bandung against the Mariners.

Central Coast Mariners 2 (Simon 42-, Duke 90-) Malaysia U-23 (Harimau Muda) 0 Stadion Si Jalak Harupat, Bandung, Indonesia

Central Coast Mariners: 12. Liam Reddy (Gk), 4. Marcel Seip (16. Trent Sainsbury 67-), 5. Zachary Anderson, 6. Brent Griffiths (3. Josh Rose 77-), 7. John Hutchinson (c) (8. Nick Montgomery 77-), 9. Mitchell Duke, 11. Nick Fitzgerald (22. Tom Slater 57-), 13. Hayden Morton, 14. Michael McGlinchey, 17. Anthony Caceres, 19. Matt Simon (21. Mile Sterjovski 73-) Substitutes not used: 1. Justin Pasfield (Gk), 10. Marcos Flores, 15. Storm Roux Yellow cards: Nick Fitzgerald, Hayden Morton Red cards: Nil

Attendance: 3,068 Referee: Jerry Elly Match Commissioner: Khaerul Agil