Refreshed Mariners target elusive ACL win

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    Well-rested and refreshed, Central Coast coach Graham Arnold is hoping the Mariners can breathe life into their fading Asian Champions League (ACL) campaign against China’s Tianjin Teda on Tuesday.

    The Mariners sit last in Group G with two matches to play but Arnold believes they still remain a hope of securing a top-two finish and progressing to the knockout stage.

    That would require a win at Gosford on Tuesday and another in their final match away to Japan’s Nagoya Grampus in a fortnight – no mean feat for a side yet to win an ACL match in 10 attempts.

    But Arnold expects to see the Mariners of old after a much-needed two-week break following a hectic schedule of A-League and ACL comprising eight matches in just over a month.

    The Mariners looked a shadow of the side that claimed this season’s A-League Premiers’ Plate in their last ACL clash, a 5-0 trouncing by Seongnam Ilhwa in Korea on April 18.

    “They’ve got the power back in their legs,” Arnold said of his players on Monday.

    “They’ve trained the house down the last few days, they look like they were before and I’m expecting a fantastic performance.”

    The heavy defeat in Seongnam dealt a blow to the Mariners’ goal difference (-5) and could hurt their chances of progression, but Arnold is confident two wins of any margin will get his side through to the next round.

    “Everything’s still in our hands at the moment,” Arnold said.

    “If we win tomorrow night 1-0, then go to Nagoya and win 1-0, we’re there.”

    Mariners captain Alex Wilkinson agreed they were reinvigorated but admitted there were some demons to exorcise from the loss to Seongnam.

    “Everyone can say that we backed up three days after the (preliminary final loss to Perth) but still, it was nowhere near good enough,” he said of the performance.

    “… but the boys are looking really sharp.”

    Arnold has virtually a full strength squad with left back Josh Rose returning from suspension.

    Tom Rogic is expected to start in midfield ahead of fellow young gun Mustafa Amini, who will likely make his last appearance in Gosford before returning to German club Borussia Dortmund after being signed and then loaned back for the season.

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (5)

    • May 1st 2012 @ 6:10am
      nordster said | May 1st 2012 @ 6:10am | ! Report

      big farewell to Musti, here’s hoping a first win in Asia to send him off

    • Roar Guru

      May 1st 2012 @ 12:04pm
      Ben of Phnom Penh said | May 1st 2012 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

      Certainly it is a tight group and anything is possible. Rogic is a real gun and I am hoping that he manages to stamp his authority on the game. I agree that it would be good to see Amini have a decent hit-out before he goes to Dortmund. The real question is can GA adapt his game to suit the game outside of the A-League. His club and national results suggest otherwise.

      Down South, Adelaide’s match fitness may be a concern though they have played some local sides and Bunyodkor have a long, long way to travel. Dario and Serg are both back from injury which will help no end. They have a good track record against the Uzbeks….. which goes some way to show how many games they’ve played in the ACL when that phrase makes sense!

    • May 2nd 2012 @ 10:13am
      PeterK said | May 2nd 2012 @ 10:13am | ! Report

      We complain when the schedule is too full. Now we’ll be reminded in the next few weeks what it’s like to lack match fitness — because our season is over.

      I believe that the timing of our main season was just right this year, but that the Finals Series should have been “strung out” to fit better with the ACL requirements. After all, we do have three clubs in the thing.

      • Roar Guru

        May 2nd 2012 @ 12:50pm
        Ben of Phnom Penh said | May 2nd 2012 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

        The problem is the schedules are put in place months in advance and we have no idea who will be present in the finals series.

        • May 3rd 2012 @ 7:13pm
          PeterK said | May 3rd 2012 @ 7:13pm | ! Report

          Agreed Ben, but whoever’s in, we do know the dates of the ACL matches, and I suspect that we could fit our Finals Series better around those dates.

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