Central Coast Mariners have continued their poor A-League form on the Asian stage suffering a 2-0 AFC Champions League defeat on Tuesday evening against FC Seoul in the South Korean capital.
Goals in each half allowed FC Seoul to collect a comfortable win in the Group F opener.
A visit to last year’s continental runners-up was always going to be tough for Central Coast on the back of a four-match A-League losing streak.
However, a tough task was made even harder with the home side awarded a highly contentious first-half penalty. Mariners’ fullback Josh Rose was adjudged to have fouled striker Sergio Escudero despite limited contact and no appeals from the home side. Spanish defender Osmar converted the spot-kick off the right post on 33 minutes.
Central Coast coach Phil Moss said he did not believe it was a penalty.
“It came at a disappointing stage of the match with the game at 0-0. I thought we were just starting to come into the game a little bit.”
The match sprang to life after 15 minutes with a searing long-range shot from Osmar forced goalkeeper Liam Reddy into a block at full stretch.
Although FC Seoul dominated possession, there were few scares for the Mariners until the penalty.
Rose missed a golden chance for the Mariners early in the second half and it proved costly with the home side soon doubling their lead. Yun Il-lok scored with a smart finish just before the hour mark after sharp lead-up work from the ever-dangerous Escudero.
“Obviously, the second goal ended the game. At 1-0, we had a fantastic chance to score on our left side and didn’t take that chance,” Moss said.
FC Seoul played with increasing confidence after the second goal and only an impressive close-range stop from Reddy denied Kim Chi-Woo a third goal.
Six minutes from fulltime, Central Coast defender Marcel Seip was red-carded for a dangerous challenge on Il-lok.
Moss said he was extremely pleased by the application of his players.
“I am very proud of my players. I thought defensively tonight, we did a very good job against a very, very good FC Seoul outfit who move the ball very well. They have players who can hurt you all over the park.
“But I have nothing but praise for my players tonight. They did well in a tough environment and some decisions certainly went against us during the game.
“To come here and put up such a brave fight leaves me with a lot of pride, especially given FC Seoul crushed China’s Jiangsu Sainty 5-1 in their first match of last season’s AFC Champions League.
“We can leave here with our heads held very high and it gives us a lot of confidence moving back into the A-League this weekend.”
The Mariners host Sydney FC on Saturday in Gosford.
In the other Group F match, Beijing Guoan forced a 1-1 draw at Japanese champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima.