|By SHAM MAJID
Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold identified Brazilian maestro Leandro Domingues as the catalyst in his side's 3-1 loss to J-League side Kashiwa Reysol in their AFC Asian Champions League clash on Wednesday.
Patrick Zwaanswijk silenced the vociferous 6,472 spectators at the Hitachi Soccer Stadium in the eighth minute with a brilliant header, but Domingues then took centre stage.
He struck a deft equalizer 13 minutes later before rounding off the victory two minutes before the end with a magnificent volley past Mariners' custodian Mathew Ryan.
"The only difference was their No.10, Domingues," Arnold said via club statement. "He's total quality."
"His first finish was a great finish. We gave away two cheap goals, and in international football, if you give away possession like that you get punished.
"[But] the third goal from them was absolutely world class."
Arnold made a raft of changes for his team's second ACL group stage encounter, culminating in a relatively youthful-looking Mariners outfit.
Nevertheless, he had no regrets over his selection as he praised his young charges for valiantly battling against their more experienced opponents.
"We had five 21-year-olds out there and the performance and the fight tonight was very good, it was more like I expect," he said.
"It's an experience for the younger boys and they’re only going to get better out of it.
"We finished the game with six or seven young boys. Sure, it hurts to lose away from home but against the top side we're not embarrassed."
Although the Mariners have a solitary point from their two group clashes so far, a bullish Arnold is confident that his side can still progress to the second round of Asia's showpiece club competition.
"We've got to win our homes games now," he said. "We've got the Chinese [Guizhou Renhe] at home and we've got the Japanese Reysol at home as well.
"I am sure we can do that."
The Mariners meet Chinese Super League outfit Guizhou Renhe in Gosford on April 3.