Central Coast Mariners are still searching for their first Asian Champions League win after J-League outfit Nagoya Grampus held them to a 1-1 drawVeteran Central Coast defender Patrick Zwaanswijk was influential at both ends of the field as the Mariners came from behind to score a 1-1 draw with Japanese powerhouse Nagoya Grampus in a Group G Asian Champions League match at Gosford on Wednesday night.
Nagoya Grampus opened the scoring in controversial fashion in the 21st minute when Markus Tulio Tanaka scored from close range after the visitors were given a freekick that should never have been awarded.
It did not take the Mariners long to reply though with Zwaanswijk heading home his seventh goal of the season in the 28th minute. Zwaanswijk showed all his experience to send his powerful header into the back of the net after a pinpoint cross from Tomas Rogic.
It was the second draw for both teams in this year’s Asian Champions League.
It was a scrappy start to the match with the antics of several Nagoya Grampus players frustrating Mariners spectators.
The visitors were given several freekicks when it appeared the Mariners defender made no contact.
Central Coach Graham Arnold was furious when one of the controversial freekicks led to Tanaka’s opening goal.
Referee Liu Kwok Man ruled Pedj Bojic fouled Tamada Keiji and replays showed the Grampus player was not touched. Tanaka scored from the close range from the resulting freekick.
After the goal the Mariners had their best period of the half and were rewarded with Zwaanswijk’s brilliantly taken goal.
The Mariners should have hit the lead six minutes later when a Rogic ball put Troy Hearfield away.
The striker had a poor first touch and could only manage to shoot straight at the goalkeeper.
In action-packed end to the first half Mariners goalkeeper Mathew Ryan was forced into a diving save from a long range strike in the 38th minute.
The Mariners kicked off the second half in fine style with midfielder John Hutchinson sending a glancing header just wide in the 49th minute.
Rogic again showed why so many clubs are after his signature with a good effort in the 58th minute.
His first touch was good before he fired a left foot strike just wide.
Chances were coming thick and fast for the Mariners with the next the next opportunity falling to Oliver Bozanic in the 65th minute. Bozanic’s left foot shot required a diving save after the attacking raid was set up by a strong run from Mustafa Amini.
Amini was in the thick of the action throughout the second half as the Mariners pushed for their first ever win in the Asian Champions League.
Nogoya Grampus were dangerous on the counter-attack with Zwaanswijk and skipper Alex Wilkinson having big games at the back.
Zwaanswijk not only scored the but also shut down Socceroo stars Josh Kennedy for much of the contest.