The Central Coast have upset Japanese giants Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1 in their Asian Champions League clash, courtesy of a Mile Sterjovski brace.
The Mariners were huge outsiders going into the match against the side who’d won the past two J-League titles.
Sanfrecce may have been missing two stars in Hisato Sato and Croatian Michael Mikic but it was still a side littered with Japanese internationals.
Mariners coach Phil Moss made no less than six changes to the side who started in last week’s 3-1 loss to Melbourne Victory in an effort to keep his side fresh in what is a hectic schedule – and the move paid off.
Sterjovski was one of the changes and the 34-year-old, who will hang up his boots at the end of this A-League season, recaptured some of his past form in what was an outstanding game for the veteran.
The Mariners’ goal came under attack early with Sanfrecce creating several chances in the opening stages.
Yojiro Takahagi tested keeper Liam Reddy with a powerful strike from the half-way line.
It was only a matter of time before the Japanese side scored, with Tsukasa Shiotani capitalising on a defensive blunder by the Mariners’ Kim Seung-Young to head home off a corner and put the visitors in front in the 22nd minute.
The players celebrated the goal by laying down in the shape of 3/11 in tribute of the anniversary of the tsunami that devastated Japan three years ago to the day.
Celebrations were short-lived, however, with Kim making amends supplying the perfect through ball for Sterjovski to level just two minutes later.
Sterjovski struck again in the 32nd minute, latching on to a clearance gone wrong by a Hiroshima defender to give the Mariners the lead with a brilliant strike.
The Mariners started the second half strongly, with Matthew Simon forcing a save from Sanfrecce keeper Takuto Hayashi just moments after the restart.
Second-half substitute Gakuto Notsuda returned fire for Sanfrecce, the 19-year-old keeping Reddy on his toes.
Asano Takuma looked like levelling for Hiroshima with 10 minutes remaining but Reddy pulled out a great save to diffuse the strike.
The visitors continued their late assault but the Mariners held on for victory.