Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold hailed his side's 'exceptional' 2-1 win over Guizhou, but warned his men needed to get more ruthless in front of goal
|By HAMISH NEAL
Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold has warned his side they will need to find the killer instinct in front of goal to progress in the AFC Champions League after wasting a host of chances in their 2-1 win over Chinese side Guizhou Renhe on Wednesday.
On a wet night in Gosford, the Mariners registered the first win of their 2013 ACL campaign, having started with a draw and a loss in their first two matches.
According to Arnold, Central Coast were fortunate their profligacy in front of goal did not cost them the victory.
"We made it hard for ourselves, we could have easily been 3- or 4-0 [up] before they scored and it was a very sloppy goal to give away," he said.
"We gave them some energy to get back into the game.
"To be able to get the three points and perform that way was exceptional."
A series of good saves from Guizhou goalkeeper Lie Zhang kept the visitors in the match after the Mariners took the lead courtesy of a 50th-minute goal to Pedj Bojic.
Zhang denied Bernie Ibini and Michael McGlinchey twice in a nine-minute spell early in the second half.
Veteran striker Daniel McBreen also sent a shot over the bar from close range, prompting Arnold to acknowledge an element of good fortue in the Mariners' triumph, sealed by Trent Sainsbury's first goal for the club.
"In international football you don't get many chances to score, you have got to score the goals or take those chances," he said.
"You can really get hurt if you don't capitalise on your advantage and we didn't do that.
"Fortunately we got the second goal, but when it was one-all we had to go for it and we opened up quite a bit.
"Three points was a must tonight. It was either three or bust."
Bosnia international Zvjezdan Misimovic was particularly dangerous for the visitors from set pieces, despite Arnold warning his team about giving away free-kicks.
"It was a key message tonight," he said.
"I learnt the lesson plenty of times in the national team.
"When you get Asian referees they are totally different to Australian referees.
"You can't touch players and if you do you will give away free-kicks.
"Quite a few of the fouls given away tonight in the final third probably wouldn't have been given by referees in the A-League."
Arnold made significant changes from the team which defeated Melbourne Heart on Saturday and, with the A-League finals in mind, the coach confirmed he will "leave seven players at home" when they play the return fixture in China next Tuesday.
"The older players will stay behind," he said.
"I'll leave [fitness coach] Andrew Clark behind to train them to prepare for the preliminary final and the other 14 will go away and we will work hard and try and shut up shop and try to make us hard to beat.
"The most important thing is we are fit and healthy and we have continued the momentum."