Central Coast Mariners have missed out on a spot in this year’s AFC Champions League group stage after slumping to a disappointing 3-1 loss to Chinese club Guangzhou R&F in Gosford on Tuesday night.
A goal in each half to Jiang Ning and Lu Lin – and an embarrassing late own goal from Josh Rose - was enough for the visitors who move into the ACL proper for the first time in the clubs history.
A superb free-kick from Glen Trifiro late on was little consolation for the Mariners, who rarely seriously threatened Guangzhou’s goal and must now regroup for the remainder of their Hyundai A-League season.
0-1 Ning (8’) – The Mariners failed to deal with a long diagonal ball forward, with Ning picking up possession on the left. He dribbled into the box, produced a nice jink to cut back inside of Storm Roux onto his right foot before lashing it into the far, top corner. It was a superb finish.
0-2 Lin (57’) – The impressive Hamedallah picked out the forward run of Ning, who surged into the box before cutting back inside past Josh Rose. Just when it looked like he would shot on goal, Ning played a clever square pass to Lin who had the simple task of tapping into an empty net from close range.
0-3 Rose og (89’) – Rose received the ball facing his own just inside his own half and under pressure from an opposition player opted to pass the ball all the way back to Liam Reddy. But the left-back put it wide of his ‘keeper and with too much power on it, it trickled into the net.
1-3 Trifiro (90+2) – The substitute saved some face for the home side with a brilliant free-kick, curling it up and over the wall into the corner of the net for the goal of the night.
From the moment Guangzhou defender Tang Miao clattered into Matt Simon early on – picking up a yellow card – the Mariners striker failed to influence the contest. The way the Mariners play Simon is a key component to his attack and with the ex-Socceroo ineffectual the home side suffered. It was no surprise when Simon was substituted at the break but things failed to improve for the home side and they couldn’t get into the match.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Despite having almost 60 percent possession in the first half the Mariners managed just one shot on target in the opening 45 minutes – a rather tame long range effort from Matt Sim. It summed up their woes in the front third, something they weren’t able to find a solution too after the break.
While the Mariners are out of the competition they did at least score the goal of the night through the underrated Trifiro. The playmaker showed great technique to get his free-kick up and over the wall and also had enough on it to beat the ‘keeper at his near post. It was a quality strike and one the Mariners will want to see more off from the man known as ‘Tricky”.
While the result was already gone it wouldn’t have pleased Mariners boss Phil Moss to see Rose put into his own net in the final minute. It was a classic case of miscommunication and a lack of concentration by both Rose and Reddy and you can imagine Moss will let them about it in training later this week.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
It was the same old story for the Mariners. Some nice build up play in defence and through midfield before things break down in the final third. Phil Moss’ side are seriously lacking some creative flair in the middle of the park, relying too much on the power of Simon up front or the pace of Fabio Ferreira down the right. While it’s too late to salvage anything for this campaign, it’s something they will need to get right in time for the start of next season.