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Evergrande on top after tough fight with Mariners

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-05-16 16:33

Evergrande on top after tough fight with Mariners

China's Guangzhou Evergrande player Muriqui (R) celebrates in front of their fans after scoring against Central Coast Mariners as goalkeeper Mathew Ryan (L) reacts during their AFC Champions League round of 16 first leg match in Gosford, Australia, May 15, 2013. [Photo/icpress.cn]

SYDNEY - Australia's Central Coast Mariners exceeded expectations in their latest Asian Champions League battle with Chinese favorite Guangzhou Evergrande Wednesday night in front of 9,000 fans at NSW's Bluetongue Stadium.

The NSW team matched the Chinese powerhouse strength to strength in the first 25 minutes of the game, taking an early lead before going down to a late goal by Brazilian import Muriqui that brought the score to 2-1 with just 14 minutes to go.

Australian sports commentators say the Mariners have almost certainly lost their chance to play in the quarterfinals this year - with the next Evergrande match taking place in front of fanatical home fans in China next week.

Evergrande only need a draw to advance to the quarters, but commentators say after their strong performance last night, the Mariners likely won't go down without a fight.

The home side shone in the opening of the match, with youngster Mitchell Duke scoring the first goal in just seven minutes of play - unsettling the Chinese superstars.

Guangzhou had already been forced to start the game with only ten men, because of a drama with Gao Lin's socks. It then took 28 minutes for Lucas Barios to equalise.

But in the end the quality of the Guangzhou team shone through - with six top-class Chinese internationals backed by celebrated World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi and Argentine players Dario Conca and Barrios, together worth $24.7 million.

Evergrande's budget surpasses that of the Mariners by $37.5 million. Last night, it proved to be money well spent - just. Asia's richest club took 76 minutes to take the lead in a game that was supposed to be a wipeout.

The teams will face off again for the return leg at Guangzhou's hometown in China on May 22.

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