What the Mariners must do to beat Guangzhou

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    The Central Coast Mariners pose for a photo before kickoff. (Photo: Paul Barkley/LookPro)

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    Some will say Central Coast have no chance of beating Guangzhou in the AFC Champions League. If Graham Arnold is smart, he will use such sentiment to his team’s advantage.

    The result of Australian sides underestimating Asian opposition in the ACL makes for ugly reading.

    Melbourne Victory lost 3-1 to Thai outfit Chonburi. Newcastle Jets were crushed 6-0 by Pohang Steelers. Sydney FC were thumped 3-0 at home by Kashima Antlers. Gamba Osaka tore Adelaide apart.

    The Mariners arguably started the trend in 2009 when they somehow missed the memo that Kawasaki Frontale have one of the most productive scouting set-ups in Asia.

    The end result was a crushing 5-0 away win for Frontale, for whom North Korean international Jong Tae-Se and Brazilian duo Renatinho and Juninho ran riot.

    Unless the Mariners have given some serious thought to how they’re going to approach their two-legged clash with Guangzhou, the tie could end in another bloodbath.

    The Cantonese moneybags – let’s be honest, it is a factor – will bring a squad to Australia so jam-packed with talent that it should give Mariners fans nightmares.

    Everywhere you look there’s a star. From Chinese number one Zeng Cheng in goal to the well-travelled Zheng Zhi bossing the midfield and fan-favourite Gao Lin up front.

    Then there’s the foreign contingent; Kim Young-Gwon, experienced Muriqui, ex-Borussia Dortmund striker Lucas Barrios and jewel in the crown, Dario Conca.

    It’s Conca the Mariners must be wary of, with the Argentine one of the most talented South American players of his generation never to play in Europe.

    However, Guangzhou’s star-studded line-up could also prove to be their downfall.

    Barrios has made little attempt to fit in, yet the Paraguayan international is likely to start the expense of the dangerous Gao.

    Meanwhile, the Chinese side left Brazilian youngster Elkeson out of their ACL squad, and he responded by scoring 13 goals in his first seven Chinese Super League fixtures.

    Needless to say, the southern side aren’t exactly short of form, and according to Wild East Football’s Guangzhou expert Ian Fuchs, the Cantonese club are in it to win it, when it comes to the ACL.

    “I think club owner Xu Jiayin takes it very seriously indeed,” Fuchs said.

    “Guangzhou have won the Chinese Super League in each of the past two seasons and have started this one in exceptional form.  He wants continental glory now.”

    However there are some cracks in the façade – albeit small – and it’s these that the Mariners must take advantage of.

    “Probably the most impressive Chinese player is attacking right-back Zhang Linpeng, who is only 23 but already a national team stalwart,” Fuchs says.

    “His main flaw is his temper – he’ll miss the first leg against the Mariners because he got sent off for retaliation in the fifth group game against Urawa.”

    And a quick look at the goals conceded during the group stages suggests that defence could be Guangzhou’s Achilles’ heel.

    They’ve got Feng Xiaoting and South Korean tough nut Kim Young-Gwon, but the entire back four has looked vulnerable when exposed to pace down the flanks, particularly in the 3-2 away defeat to Urawa Reds.

    The goal conceded on the road at Thai side Muangthong United was farcical and when the Guangzhou defenders backed off Kim Jung-Woo on their trip to Jeonju, the wily veteran responded by cracking home a right-footed strike in off the post.

    In other words, the Guangzhou defence is far from impregnable and the common denominator in all of those goals is that they were conceded away from home.

    The Mariners will almost certainly need to score in Gosford to progress.

    They’ll also need to keep Conca better shackled than they did Kashiwa playmaker Leandro Domingues.

    Additionally, they’ll need a healthy dose of luck if they are to see off one of the genuine favourites for the title.

    But for all the financial disparity between the two sides, this tie will be settled over two legs, like any other.

    Graham Arnold would do well to remind his players of that, because there’s a good chance Marcello Lippi may well forget.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (31)

    • Roar Guru

      May 10th 2013 @ 7:35am
      Cameron Kellett said | May 10th 2013 @ 7:35am | ! Report

      What the Mariners require is a miracle.

    • May 10th 2013 @ 9:29am
      Bondy said | May 10th 2013 @ 9:29am | ! Report

      Its a matter of time on all fronts lets see the results first and then really gauge as to supposedly where we’re from the top heavies of Asian football. I feel overall Australian HAL squads need roughly 10 -12 more games experience each year in the HAL before seriously challenging Asian opponents or being champions of Asia.

    • Roar Guru

      May 10th 2013 @ 9:53am
      Cameron Kellett said | May 10th 2013 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      I really think the title of this article should read – What can Guangzhou do to lose? The answer, not much. It’s really theirs to lose more than anything. If mariners somehow win by scoring a goal at home which clearly always helps then I’ll be very surprised considering everything that you said is in front of them.

    • May 10th 2013 @ 10:15am
      Midfielder said | May 10th 2013 @ 10:15am | ! Report

      The Cantonese moneybags V Central Coast poor house ….it is a factor – The moneybags will bring a squad to Australia so jam-packed with talent they could take on the Socceroos….. they have one player whose wage is five times our wage bill …

      Maybe we could direct em to another ground …

      I would love to win but my heart says with the coach they have the budget they have its kinda like a Maltese pub team up against an EPL side …

      Going to sing my guts out … I am not hopeful going in…

      Mike what’s your tho’s on moving Trent Sainsbury to a DM role … Anderson is a big capable CB but by moving Trent further up the park to close down their attack…. my gut tells me if we sit back we will get smashed we have to play our normal game…

      OMG …. COYY …. got our tickets … disappointing almost no local coverage of the match in the local media … FFA could do something here and spend a little on some ads .. everyone knows our finances so a bit of a spend by FFA could help … like next year for the Drive Byes they will not ERRRR BS…

      The lack of media means so few people even know its on ….

      THe one thing I would do is start Duke from the start if he is good enough to be in the Socceroo training squad then he is good enough to start…

      Mike … my suggestions … pray, move Trent to a DM role, start Duke from the start … then pray some more …

      The Poor House V the Moneybags …. COYY….

    • Roar Guru

      May 10th 2013 @ 10:43am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | May 10th 2013 @ 10:43am | ! Report

      I don’t watch enough CSL .. in fact I can count on less than 1 finger the number of CSL matches I’ve watched.

      The little I’ve seen of Chinese domestic football league – from highlights on Football Asia – leaves me unimpressed. In general, the goalkeeping has been extremely low grade. The only players, who seem to shine (purely based on highlights), are foreigners, which is probably the reason the CHN national team is so poor – the most populous nation on earth & a massive underachiever in world football.

      I really hope CCM wins & wins with style.

      Not just because I want A-League clubs to do well, but also to silence the Asian Football Groupies, who go on an on about football in KOR, JPN, CHN … but, have little positive to say about the A-League.

      • Roar Guru

        May 10th 2013 @ 1:45pm
        dinoweb said | May 10th 2013 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

        Sorry Fuss, but I think your sentiment is a little isolationist.

        I watched most of Roars A-League campaign last season, and was impressed with the overall standard of all the Asian teams.

        It was obvious that the level of the Austrlian players needed to improve substantially. Some of them did, especially Franjic, and I don’t think his fantastic performances at the end of this season were a coincidence.

        Any opportunity that any Australian team gets to play at this level should be grasped with both hands, and at this point in time, seen as a learning experience. Positive results are just a bonus.

        The tradgedy of Australia’s reduced participation this season was not that we had a reduced chance to do well, but that we had a reduced chance to learn and improve.

        I have no doubt that one day, Australian teams will be able to compete and expect to do well, but I also think we will deservedly be underdogs for some time to come.

        All that being said, there certainly is no reason why CCM can’t do the country proud, and I’ll be checking out the match with interest.

    • Roar Guru

      May 10th 2013 @ 12:09pm
      Ben of Phnom Penh said | May 10th 2013 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

      I am not sure of Zheng Zhi still has the spark he once had. It will be a tough assignment however as Adelaide proved a couple of times with Bunyodkor, money isn’t everything.

      Good luck to the Mariners; I’ll be cheering you on.

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