A two-goal deficit proved too much for Central Coast Mariners on Wednesday night in China. The only A-League club to advance past the Champions League group stage a year ago, the Mariners slipped to fourth place in Group F after losing 2-1 to Beijing Guoan at the Workers Stadium in the Chinese capital. Sanfrecce Hiroshima beat FC Seoul 2-1 on Wednesday in Japan to move into second place in the group.
Darko Matic set up Guoan's opener just before halftime, feeding Shao Jiayi in the 45th minute. The hosts doubled the lead just after the hour when Peter Utaka got around Liam Reddy and scored from a tight angle. Substitute Isaka Cernak drew a late penalty, which was subsequently converted by Nick Fitzgerald, but it was not nearly enough to steal a point in Beijing.
The last chance for the Mariners to back into contention for another spot in the Round of 16 will come on Tuesday April 1 against Guoan at Central Coast Stadium. Before then, the A-League's championship holders, currently in fourth place, will travel to AAMI Park to play Melbourne Heart on Sunday March 23.