A year after reaching the Champions League's Round of 16, Central Coast Mariners are out at the group stage level. A 1-0 defeat in Japan at the hands of Sanfrecce Hiroshima left the Mariners in third place in Group F and marks Western Sydney Wanderers as the only A-League side to advance to the knock out rounds. In fact, by finishing second in the group, Hiroshima will play the Wanderers beginning in early May with a quarterfinal position on the line. FC Seoul won the group, beating Beijing Guoan 2-1 in Korea on Wednesday.
Two crushing losses on Match Days 5 and 6 kept the Mariners from advancing. After allowing a last second own-goal against FC Seoul last week, it was a red card and a deflected free kick that bested the A-League's championship holders. Brent Griffiths was sent off with a straight red card following a tackle outside the box in the 70th minute. The substitute had only replaced Eddy Bosnar in the 68th. The resulting free kick by Tsukasa Shiotani took a deflection off of Satoru Yamagishi, leaving Liam Reddy helpless. Reddy had been in fine form prior to the concession, making several big saves including on Yogiro Takahagi's earlier free kick.
Now Central Coast must return to Australia to face the Wanderers in an A-League semifinal at Pirtek Stadium. The Mariners will not land in Sydney until Friday and the semifinal will take place on Saturday April 26. Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth is understandably unhappy and has publicly voiced his frustrations.
HIR Yamagishi 72'
Sanfrecce Hiroshima: Hayashi; Hwang, Mizumoto, Park, Shiotani; Aoyama, Takahagi (Takuma 86'), Yamagishi, Notsuda (Morisaki 56'), Shibasaki; Ishihara
Unused substitutes: Masuda, Chiba, Kashiwa, Shimizu, Marutani
Central Coast Mariners: Reddy; Anderson, Roux (Rose 54'), Bosnar (Griffiths 68'); Hutchinson, Caceras, Kim, Cernak (Duke 83'), Trifiro, Sim; Sterjovski
Unused substitutes: Pasfield, Fitzgerald, Morton, Ibini