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Mar 7, 2012

Mariners earn ACL soccer point in China

Central Coast's defence was back to its stingy best as the Mariners kicked off their Asian Champions League campaign with a scoreless draw against Tianjin Teda in China.

The Mariners, who have yet to win an ACL game after seven attempts, defended stoutly and had some late chances to win the game.

Clear cut opportunities were at a premium on a cold Wednesday night, with both teams only testing the opposing goalkeeper a handful of times.

Chinese FA Cup holders Tianjin pushed forward at every opportunity but were well held by a determined Mariners side, which threatened on the counter attack but didn't capitalise on set piece opportunities.

"After playing on Saturday in Australia and travelling for 22 hours with only two days here in Tianjin, I thought it was a fantastic performance from my team," Mariners' coach Graham Arnold said.

"I was very proud of the way that we played."

The Mariners survived a nervous moment near the end.

The referee waved away a penalty appeal despite replays suggesting Mariners defender Patrick Zwaanswijk caught the man not the ball.

"I think he (the referee) made the right decision in the end. He went down a bit soft, the Tianjin player," Mariners goalkeeper Mat Ryan told AAP.

Young substitutes Tom Rogic and Bernie Ibini added some pep to the visitors in the second half and each had a late chance to win the game.

Rogic had a firm shot saved by Tianjin goalkeeper Song Zhenyu, while Ibini had a stoppage time effort blocked by the home team's Australian defender Milan Susak.

Prior to their late surge, the Mariners' best chance fell to left back Josh Rose, who had a close range shot from a tight angle blocked by the goalkeeper's legs in the 48th minute.

It was an encouraging start to their ACL challenge for the Mariners, who have won just one of their past six A-League games.

They hadn't kept a clean sheet in their past three matches but showed the defensive starch that has helped them concede a league-low 22 goals, less than one per game.

"We pretty much stuck to our game plan and the tactics we were given," Ryan said.

"We knew that they had a couple of quick, nippy players and we just felt that if we stuck to our defensive structure that we've had throughout most of the season, that we would prove difficult to break down."

Ryan made an important save in each half.

He blocked a 31st minute shot from Chen Tao and caught a chip from Veliche Shumulikoski on the hour.

The result completed a mixed opening ACL round for the three Australian sides, with Adelaide winning 2-1 away to Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor and Brisbane losing 2-0 at home to Japan's FC Tokyo.

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