AFC Champions League - Group H: Wed, 8th April 2009
|0 - 5|
Venue: Bluetongue Stadium
A buoyant Kawasaki Frontale maintained their two-point cushion at the top of Group H with a five-goal footballing masterclass against Central Coast Mariners on Wednesday night.
Progress to the knockout stage should now be plain sailing for the "cashed up" Japanese side after comprehensively sinking their Australian hosts.
Chong Tese opened proceedings, holding off Mariners defender Brad Porter to head home Mori's inviting cross. There had been suggestions that the burly Korean might be rested after his recent international exertions, but he showed little sign of fatigue in an impressive forward display.
Juninho should have added a second shortly after, but it was Taniguchi who was next onto the scoresheet with a trademark header from Vitor's corner. This second goal took whatever wind remained out of the home team's sails and afforded Frontale the freedom to relax into their game.
Chances were now coming thick and fast. Vitor Junior, who was simply too hot for the Australians to handle, curled a shot inches wide from the corner of the box after cutting in neatly on his left foot. Chong Tese was then sent through on goal only for Mariners captain Alex Wilkinson to get back and do just enough to avert the danger.
The game was put to bed on 37 minutes when a deflected shot flew past a wrong-footed Danny Vukovic in the Mariners goal. Mori, who gave another all-round strong performance, came in off his wing and squared to Chong whose deft dummy left Juninho with time and space to pick his spot. It looked like the veteran striker's shot was probably on target, but the deflection off defender Nigel Boogaard certainly helped.
Central Coast weren't without their own chances. Indeed if striker Nik Mrdja hadn't directed his free header straight at Eiji Kawashima in the opening minutes it could have given the visitors, whose confidence is often easily bruised, something to think about.
Half chances fell to Adrian Caceres and Dylan MacAllister, and a couple of corners were wastefully overhit, but other than that the home team showed little of note in the first half. At 3-0 Mrdja did finally manage to spring the offside trap but his tame shot rebounded harmlessly away off big Eiji's sturdy frame.
Any half-time words of encouragament from Mariners manager Lawrie McKinna were blown away straight after the break when Kengo made it four. A sumptuous Vitor flick with the outside of the boot fell perfectly for his captain to volley into the back of the net.
Kengo almost returned the favour soon after when his back-heel left Vitor with the goal at his mercy. The diminutive Brazilian watched his shot sail towards the top corner before being diverted round the post by a last-gasp lunge from Porter.
With things going much better than any pre-match script he could have prepared, Sekizuka took the opportunity to rest some of his key players. Chong, Mori and Taniguchi came off for Renatinho, Igawa and Yamagishi. The latter two did little to suggest they'll be reclaiming their starting spots any time soon, but Renatinho put out a reminder that he can do a job for the team by adding a fifth.
A loose pass out from Vukovic left Boogaard looking foolish as the Frontale forwards pounced. Juninho (somewhat miraculously) decided to pass to Renatinho, thereby taking full advantage of a two-on-one situation, and the substitute's clinical shot sent the away supporters into raptures.
Frontale could have been forgiven for taking their eye off the ball after the break, but Sekizuka looks to be instilling a ruthless professionalism in his charges. Things did slow down towards the end, but this was more as a result of the substitutions than any lack of respect for their opponents.
Central Coast showed occasional signs of life in the second half. The addition of Ahmad Elrich and Adam Kwasnik brought a bit more spirit to a demoralised side. The latter was unlucky to be denied on two occasions, one a point-blank save by Kawashima and the other a goal-line clearance from Terada. But the home fans weren't to get their consolation goal.
Frontale can seal their progress to the next round in the return leg in a fortnight's time. After this performance, the Mariners will no doubt be relishing their trip that little bit less.