The little club that won’t go away has arrived in Japan for Match Day 6 of their 2014 Asian Champions League tilt. As if on cue the Central Coast Mariners whinging and whining came wringing out of the post match press conference on Friday (18th April), after they downed the entertaining Adelaide United.
Mariners manager Phil Moss teed off at FFA for scheduling their A-League semi-final on Saturday 26th April (rather than Sunday), giving the Gosford club a limited recovery period from their bout with Hiroshima tonight. “A 24-hour turnaround from flying in from an overnight flight to playing a grand final qualifier is not acceptable,” the manager moaned. Moss looked to garner sympathy from the gathered media and the public as the broken record kicked into overdrive. Year after year of their annoying existence the Mariners have tried to play the ‘little battler’ card, and Moss has proven that like previous managers Lawrie McKinna and Graham Arnold he has a knack for building a siege mentality around his playing group.
For all the manager’s bleating about the toughness of the draw, the situation could have been avoided if Central Coast had simply finished in the top two of the A-League. If they had, the Mariners would have been in the privileged position Western Sydney Wanderers found themselves in. Wanderers had a week off after the regular season, before going into their ACL clash with Guizhou Renhe fresh as daisies, and as expected routed the Chinese outfit 5-0.
As for the Mariners’ hopes against Hiroshima I’d have to give them more than half a hope. After sitting in the stands for Hiroshima’s visit to Niigata over the weekend and making a miracle turnaround to write this article within days, I saw nothing in the purple team’s arsenal to scare Central Coast. Hiroshima played their usual ‘cat and mouse’ game hoping to catch Niigata on the break, but too often their transitions were broken down by the home team.
So tonight the moment of truth arrives for the Mariners in what will definitely be a cagey affair, with both teams likely to sit back and counter attack. Yes, there was no Hisato Sato and a home ground advantage for the Mariners last time the two met, but importantly tonight a draw will be enough for the Aussie club to advance to the Champions League Round of 16 provided FC Seoul draw or win at home against Beijing.