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Arnold upbeat despite missed chance

Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold is confident his side can make the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League.

Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold is confident his side can make the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League.

The Mariners opened their campaign with a scoreless draw first-up against the Suwon Bluewings on Wednesday.

Mariners midfielder Nick Montgomery missed at 88th-minute penalty which would have secured the home side the early lead in Group H proceedings but a save from Suwon’s South Korean international goalkeeper Sung Ryong-Jung kept the home side at bay.

Arnold took an array of positives out of the fixture, played in humid conditions in Gosford.

“After tonight I have got a huge belief that we will make the last 16 … It was that good a performance,” said an enthusiastic Arnold.

“As I said to them then, after that performance, you have to carry the belief and the confidence into the next five games at least.

“Because in my view it was a very, very good performance against a high-quality opposition.”

Arnold was full of praise for the Mariners’ young brigade, particularly the two 21-year-old central defenders in Zac Anderson and Trent Sainsbury.

“Fantastic, he’s unreal,” Arnold said of Anderson.

“Him and Sainsbury, the two kids at the back were excellent.

“With Matty Ryan there (in goal) and young (Mitchell) Duke when he came on and Bernie (Ibini) when he came on, we had half a team full of kids but they keep performing exceptionally well.”

Arnold lauded the progress of Anderson, who was deputising for Dutchman Patrick Zwaanswijk.

“When I got him down from the Gold Coast, I knew what I was getting, a very good footballer.

“He is a big, strong boy but also very under-rated on the ball. He is a very intelligent person … He is always willing to learn and wanting to learn.

“He is growing in stature as a central defender every game.”

Heading into the fixture, the Mariners elevated Anderson, Oliver Bozanic, Nick Fitzgerald and Mile Sterjovski to the starting line-up, and the performance gives Arnold somewhat of a selection headache in the coming weeks

The former Socceroo boss noted: “It gives you a lot of satisfaction that you can make four or five changes and nothing seems to phase them.”

With their blockbuster A-League clash against the Western Sydney Wanderers nearing a sell-out, Arnold confirmed the players who were rested on Wednesday will all come into contention for selection for the side’s third game in eight days.





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Wed 27 Feb, 2013
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