Michael McGlinchey scored the winner against Suwon Bluewings last week. Image courtesy of couriermail.com.au/Tony Feder/Getty Images
Central Coast’s never-ending season reaches an important stage on Tuesday night when it hosts Japanese outfit Kashiwa Reysol in the AFC Champions League. A win guarantees the Mariners a place in the knockout stage, while a draw or a loss leaves them at the mercy of China’s Guizhou Renhe, which plays bottom-place Suwon Bluewings at home.
Kashiwa has been the dominant team in Group H having already secured its passage through to the final 16, but they were pumped 4-0 by front-runner Omiya Ardija in the J-League at the weekend. With the domestic competition in full swing and Kashiwa sitting mid-table, a weakened side could well run out at Bluetongue Stadium. They’ve won both away matches so far in the group stage, though, including a 6-2 thrashing of Suwon.
The Mariners rocketed in to second place on the table thanks to their 1-0 win over the Bluewings in South Korea last week with Michael McGlinchey putting home the winner. If the result goes against Central Coast in this match, it could be the last game in Mariners colours for Trent Sainsbury, who looks on his way to Bolton Wanderers in the Championship in England, while there has also been plenty of interest in ‘keeper Mat Ryan and Bernie Ibini.
Central Coast beat Guizhou Renhe 2-1 in its last start in this competition at Bluetongue, but their record against Japanese opposition in Gosford isn’t flattering. In 2009 the Mariners were thumped 5-0 by Kawasaki Frontale before drawing 1-1 with Nagoya Grampus in 2012. Graham Arnold’s side took an early lead in its previous clash with Kashiwa but the hosts ran away with the match winning 3-1 in mid-March.
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