AN inspired Central Coast Mariners team has tonight drawn 1-1 with J-League giants Nagoya Grampus at Central Coast Stadium in matchday 2 of the AFC Champions League.
Patrick Zwaanswijk’s 28th minute header helped earn the Mariners the deserved draw which also saw Graham Arnold’s side remain undefeated in this year’s version of Asia’s premier club competition.
Japanese international defender Markus Tulio Tanaka had given Dragan Stojkovic’s men the lead in the 21st minute after he poked home following a dubious free-kick awarded on the edge of the penalty area.
But as he has done many times in Australia’s top flight, Zwaanswijk rose highest to nod past Grampus custodian Seigo Narazaki to score his seventh goal in all competitions this campaign.
Indeed, Gosford’s idyllic bayside arena was the perfect stage for a highly entertaining match between the AFC Champions League Group G rivals.
And, despite both goals coming in the first 30 minutes of play, the remaining 60 minutes of the game proved fantastic fare as both teams looked to gain their first win of Asia’s top club tournament in 2012.
Troy Hearfield, Tomas Rogic, Oliver Bozanic and Mustafa Amini all forced the highly experienced Grampus ‘keeper Narazaki into sublime saves to keep the score level.
Meanwhile, Mariners custodian Mathew Ryan was as alert as he frustrated Shohei Abe with a spectacular diving save in the 37th minute. Largely untroubled in the second stanza, Ryan looked poised and confident all match on his home patch.
After the game, Mariners Head Coach Graham Arnold said he was delighted with his teams’ effort against one of Asia’s most respected football clubs.
“I cannot be prouder,” he said. “We had four or five kids out there, 18, 19-year-olds and they were superb.”
“We challenged the kids tonight and they came through with flying colours.”
Arnold also shared with the media gathered at the post match press conference his personal desire to excel in the AFC Champions League.
“Adelaide were brilliant last night and we wanted to put on a good performance to show everyone why we’re sitting where we are on the league and that we’re worth it,” he said.
“It mattered to me because … people talk about the A-League but we’re playing against a 50 million dollar team and want to prove something.”
“We had probably the best chance of the game (to win it). Fantastic performance.”
With Korea’s Seongnam Ilwha Chunma drawing 1-1 with Tianjin Teda in Group G’s other clash on Wednesday evening, all four teams in the section are now locked on two points from two matches.
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Zwaanswijk 28’)
Nagoya Grampus 1 (Tulio Tanaka 21’)
Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (Gk), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 12. Troy HEARFIELD (9. Bernie IBINI 72’), 14. Michael MCGLINCHEY, 17. Tomas ROGIC (2. Daniel MCBREEN 78’), 18. Alex WILKINSON (C), 22. Mustafa AMINI
Substitutes Not Used: 10. Adriano PELLEGRINO, 16. Trent SAINSBURY, 19. John SUTTON, 20. Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 21. Sam GALLAGHER
Yellow Cards: Rogic
Red Cards: Nil
Nagoya Grampus: 1. Seigo NARAZAKI (Gk) (C), 4. Markus TULIO TANAKA, 6. Shohei ABE, 11. Keiji TAMADA (27. TANABE 88’), 14. Keiji YOSHIMURA (28. Taguchi TAISHI 68’), 16. Josh KENNEDY, 18. Kensuke NAGAI, 20. DANILSON, 22. DANIEL, 23. Yosuke ISHIBITSU, 25. Mu KANAZAKI (35. Tanaka TERUKI 74’)
Substitutes Not Used: 5. Takahiro MASUKAWA, 13. Ryota ISOMURA, 32. Hayuma TANAKA, 50. Yoshinari TAKAGI
Yellow Cards: Kennedy
Red Cards: Nil