Mariners stun Japanese champion

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Central Coast Mariners players celebrate a famous victory for the club.

Central Coast Mariners players celebrate a famous victory for the club.
Source: AFP

All the goals from the first half of the Central Coast Mariners’ clash against Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

THE Central Coast have upset Japanese giants Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1 in their Asian Champions League clash, courtesy of a Mile Sterjovski brace.

The Mariners were huge outsiders going into the match against the side who’d won the past two J-League titles.

Sanfrecce may have been missing two stars in Hisato Sato and Croatian Michael Mikic but it was still a side littered with Japanese internationals.

Mariners coach Phil Moss made no less than six changes to the side who started in last week’s 3-1 loss to Melbourne Victory in an effort to keep his side fresh in what is a hectic schedule – and the move paid off.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima have produced a touching tribute to the victims of the tsunami and earthquake which hit Japan three years ago today with this poignant celebration after scoring against the Central Coast Mariners.

Sterjovski was one of the changes and the 34-year-old, who will hang up his boots at the end of this A-League season, recaptured some of his past form in what was an outstanding game for the veteran.

The Mariners’ goal came under attack early with Sanfrecce creating several chances in the opening stages.

Yojiro Takahagi tested keeper Liam Reddy with a powerful strike from the half-way line.

It was only a matter of time before the Japanese side scored, with Tsukasa Shiotani capitalising on a defensive blunder by the Mariners’ Kim Seung-Young to head home off a corner and put the visitors in front in the 22nd minute.

The players celebrated the goal by laying down in the shape of 3/11 in tribute of the anniversary of the tsunami that devastated Japan three years ago to the day.

Celebrations were short-lived, however, with Kim making amends supplying the perfect through ball for Sterjovski to level just two minutes later.

Sterjovski struck again in the 32nd minute, latching on to a clearance gone wrong by a Hiroshima defender to give the Mariners the lead with a brilliant strike.

The Mariners started the second half strong, with Matthew Simon forcing a save from Sanfrecce keeper Takuto Hayashi just moments after the restart.

Second-half substitute Gakuto Notsuda returned fire for Sanfrecce, the 19-year-old keeping Reddy on his toes.

Asano Takuma looked like levelling for Hiroshima with 10 minutes remaining but Reddy pulled out a great save to diffuse the strike.

The visitors continued their late assault but the Mariners held on for victory.

“This is a very proud moment for the club and a very famous victory for the Central Coast Mariners and the A-League,” Moss said.

Central Coast Mariners coach Phil Moss talks to the press following his teams 2-1 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

“I’m very proud of my players … I just said to them they didn’t just get the result tonight, they deserved the result.

“An important thing to get out of this game was we didn’t just hold our own; we played some quality football and we threatened on a number of occasions.

“Everything went to plan tonight.”

Moss praised Sterjovski’s man-of-the-match performance but said he wasn’t hoping the midfielder would reconsider retirement.

“I’m so happy for Mile. He’s such a great guy and such a fantastic professional,” Moss said.

“He’s been so important for us on and off the field and he really wound the clock back tonight.

“It would hurt me more to talk him out of retirement and see his last year be one too many.

“The way he’s going about it now is just perfect … he’s in great shape and still mixing it with the top Asian teams.

“It’s exactly the way a true champion like him deserves to go out.”

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