CENTRAL Coast Mariners kicked off their 2013 AFC Champions League campaign with a scoreless draw against K-League Classic club Suwon Bluewings at Central Coast Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Mariners dominated much of the match and missed a golden opportunity to win the game against Seo Jung-won’s side after Jung Sungryong saved Nick Montgomery’s 88th minute penalty kick.
Suwon defender Kwak Kwangsun made a horrific handball inside his own area to gift the Mariners a chance to take all three points from 12-yards, but unfortunately for Central Coast Montgomery’s shot was saved by Bluewings’ and Korea Republic’s international custodian Sungryong.
Graham Arnold’s side had the better of the chances to win the clash on Matchday 1. Indeed, soon after Montgomery’s spot kick, Pedj Bojic mistimed an effort from an inviting position, letting Suwon off the hook.
It was obvious from the outset that neither side wanted to concede early in the game. Nevertheless, the Mariners did have the better of the play in the first 45, creating a few opportunities to open their account in this season’s version of Asia’s premier club competition.
The energetic Nick Fitzgerald provided a chance after flying down the left side to whip in a cross for Kiwi international Michael McGlinchey. McGlinchey fired a half volley at goal, however couldn’t direct his shot on target.
Suwon’s biggest chance of the first half and possibly the match came in the 43rd minute to Chong Tese. The DPR Korea international ran onto a low and direct cross but failed to hit the target.
Despite it being Suwon’s first competitive match of the season their fitness held up well in the first 45 minutes, but the true test came in the second half against the Hyundai A-League’s ladder leaders. In the A-League, the Mariners have picked up 28 from a possible 30 at their home venue this season.
The conservative nature of the first half carried into the first ten minutes of the second and this was evident through the Mariners’ flanks. Josh Rose and Pedj Bojic, perhaps understanding the threat Suwon pose on the break, played somewhat more defensively than usual.
Despite largely sitting deeper than normal, the duo were still integral to some of the Mariners’ best play, with clever through balls for the likes of McGlinchey and the A-League’s top marksman Daniel McBreen helping keep Arnold’s outfit on top of Seo’s side.
The pacey Mitchell Duke was injected into the match in the 63rd minute and just sixty seconds later found himself with the ball at his feet and with a great chance to break the deadlock.
Duke picked the ball up on the edge of the box, charged at Sungryong and opted to drive his shot at goal with the outside of his right foot. His effort pounded into the keeper from close range, and while the rebound came straight back at him he had little time to react, with his hurried follow up shot flying over the crossbar.
In a game of few opportunities, the best chances of the contest undoubtedly came in the final five minutes of the match. Sungryong’s save from Montgomery’s spot kick and Bojic’s failure to connect with his late chance ensured the game remained goalless and both teams got their Group H campaign off to a solid start.
Central Coast Mariners play their next AFC Champions League match away to J-League outfit Kashiwa Reysol on Wednesday 13 March at the Kashiwa Soccer Stadium in Japan.
However, Arnold and his men will not be looking that far down the track just yet, with games against Western Sydney Wanderers (Saturday 2 March, home) and Sydney FC (Saturday 9 March, away) before their 2013 AFC Champions League Matchday 2 date with Reysol in the land of the rising sun.
Central Coast Mariners 0
Suwon Bluewings 0
Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (Gk), 2. Daniel MCBREEN, 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Zachary ANDERSON, 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael MCGLINCHEY (c) (9. Bernie IBINI 72’), 16. Trent SAINSBURY, 18. Nick MONTGOMERY, 21. Mile STERJOVSKI (19. Mitchell DUKE 62’), 29. Nick FITZGERALD
Substitutes not used: 8. Adriano PELLEGRINO, 13. Brent GRIFFITHS, 17. Anthony CACERES, 20. Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 24. Hayden MORTON
Yellow cards: McBreen 88’
Red cards: Nil
Suwon Bluewings: 1. Jung SUNGRYONG (Gk), 2. Choi JAESOO, 3. Kwak KWANGSUN, 7. Cho DONGGUN (11. STEVO 63’), 8. Kim DOOHYUN (c) (16. Cho JI HOON 69’), 9. Oh JANGEUN, 13. Seo JUNGJIN (36. Kim DAE KYUNG 56’), 14. Chong TESE, 15. Hong SOONHAK, 17. Hong CHUL, 23. Eddy BOSNAR
Substitutes not used: 3. LEE JONGMIN, 19. CHO YONGTAE, 21. Yang DONGWON (Gk), 34. Yeon JAEMIN
Yellow cards: Jaesoo 87’, Jangeun 29’
Red cards: Nil
Referee: Ali Hasan Ebrahim Abdulnabi (Bahrain)