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Mariners head to top of Champions League group

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The Central Coast Mariners have gone to the top of their group in the Asian Champions League as they managed a 1-0 win over Beijing Guoan at Central Coast Stadium on Tuesday night.

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The Mariners made four changes to the side that beat Western Sydney on the weekend, with late goal hero Bernie Ibini earning a starting berth.

Beijing started their big guns, knowing a win could be vital in the tightest group in Asia, but after their first loss of the season on the weekend they looked rattled.

Beijing could well have conceded a penalty in the opening stages of the match as Yu Yang fouled Kim Seung-Yong, with the referee ruling contact was just outside the box. Kim stepped up but could not beat the wall with his free-kick.

The first half was tight and both sides struggled to really have a big impact and in the 40th minute the match started to come alive.

Mitchell Duke managed a back-heel to kick things off, sending Ibini through down the left, only for Yang Zhi to come off his line quickly and deny Ibini’s effort.

Beijing countered almost immediately with Guerron being sent free in midfield, but sent his shot over the bar, allowing Liam Reddy to find Mitchell Duke with the goal kick but he also couldn’t find the target.

Right at the death of the half, only a moment of brilliance from Reddy denied Beijing as Shao Jiayi hit a shot from point-blank range, but was denied by a quick Reddy to keep it scoreless at the break.

Just ten minutes in to the half, Darko Matic was lucky to not get carded as he took down Kim in a cynical challenge, with the tensions raising from a spiteful match in the last match day.

Another foul could well have put Beijing in front as Guerron beat Brent Griffiths, but got clipped by the Mariners’ man on the way through forcing the referee to award a penalty.

That allowed Xizhe to step up to the spot and hit the penalty, but Reddy guessed correctly and made the save to keep it level.

Four minutes later the Mariners had their lead as Nick Montgomery sent the ball forward for Kim, on the right, allowing him to cross in for Marcel Seip who volleyed home the opener.

Both sides went for the match in the closing stages with Beijing’s goalkeeper creating plenty of interesting moments as he rushed from goal much too eagerly.

Beijing, however, struggled to create, and were completely outclassed by the Mariners, who went to the top of the table, pending the result in the other match.

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