Needing a win to keep their chances of a top-two place in Group H alive, Trent Sainsbury's late goal handed the Mariners a crucial three points
|By HAMISH NEAL at BLUETONGUE
The Central Coast Mariners breathed life back into their AFC Champions League campaign, as defender Trent Sainsbury buried an 81st-minute header to give the locals a 2-1 triumph over Chinese Superleague side Guizhou Renhe on Wednesday in Gosford.
In a match which started in wet conditions and was briefly paused in the first half when the grandstand lights went out, the Mariners took in the lead in the 50th minute after defender Pedj Bojic's dipping left-foot strike was misread by Guizhou goalkeeper Lie Zhang.
The visitors replied when a Zvjezdan Misimovic free-kick glanced off Mariners defender Joshua Rose head then hit the right-hand post and rebounded in off goalkeeper Mat Ryan's chest in the 71st minute.
However, 21-year-old Sainsbury sent the small home crowd into raptures when he latched on to a pin-point cross from Michael McGlinchey for the decisive strike.
The Mariners made seven changes to their starting line-up which saw off the Melbourne Heart 2-1 on Saturday in the A-League, and Graham Arnold's men had an early shout for handball turned down after a Mile Sterjovski cross was handled near the edge of the penalty area by Guizhou defender Wei Wu.
Moments later there were two brief pauses when the lights on the top row of each grandstand went out. But play was largely unimpeded by the glitch despite the protests of the Guizhou officials.
In addition to the handball, the men in yellow and navy had the best chances early, with Sterjovksi involved again as the veteran blasted a ball across the face of the goal inside the first 15 minutes.
Interim Guizhou boss Lei Gong got himself into trouble with referee Abdullah Balouhsji of Qatar for constantly disputing decisions and was warned with 17 minutes remaining in the first half.
Moments, later the Guiyang-based side spurned a chance after superb lead-up play by Bosnian Misimovic.
The 30-year-old laid on a sublime ball for his countryman striker Zlatan Muslimovic, before the striker butchered a one-on-one with Mariners shot-stopper Ryan, who made an initial save before the 32-year-old fluffed his lines when the ball fell towards him near the penalty spot.
German-born Bosnian Misimovic and left-winger Hai Yu contined to ask questions of the Mariners defence, while the home side were restricted to shoots from long-range late in the half.
The Mariners' speedy wide play set-up the goal before both goalkeepers were forced into double saves in quick succession from the 53rd minute.
Firstly, Guizhou duo Nano and Muslimovic were denied by Ryan before Zhang thwarted Bernie Ibini and then McGlinchey's rebound.
Daniel McBreen joined the parade of players to miss chances as he chipped a ball from close-range over the cross bar.
Ibini and McGlinchey were yet again denied by Zhang, with the Mariners made to pay seven minutes later when Guizhou drew level, before Sainbury's first ever Mariners goal settled proceedings.
The Mariners now meet Guizhou next Tuesday in China before a home grand final qualifier in the A-League on April 14.