An injury-time own goal from captain John Hutchinson gifted FC Seoul a 1-0 win over Central Coast on Wednesday night in a major blow to the Mariners’ AFC Champions League ambitions.
The result lifts the Koreans past the Mariners into top spot in Group F, and leaves the A-League champions facing the difficult challenge of earning a result at Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the final group match next Wednesday.
FC Seoul enjoyed far better goalscoring opportunities in an open and entertaining match but the decisive moment didn’t arrive until the 92nd minute as Hutchinson inadvertently deflected Kim Jin Kyu’s cross past goalkeeper Liam Reddy.
It seemed Central Coast would have Reddy to thank for a hard-won point following a string of second-half saves at Bluetongue Stadium.
Seoul midfielder Rafael forced a finger-tip save from Reddy in the first half, while teammate Cha Du Ri nearly broke the crossbar with a fierce drive as the rebound narrowly failed to cross the line.
The Mariners enjoyed a late first-half flurry with Brent Griffiths testing goalkeeper Kim Yong Dae, while Zac Anderson just missed looping a header under the crossbar.
The visitors, though, enjoyed far better of the second half proceedings but somehow failed to convert any of their numerous chances, with Reddy producing three critical blocks within a matter of minutes.
Sergio Escudero was denied by Reddy on the hour mark and did likewise as Yun Illok bore down on goal.
Reddy then denied Go Yohan a seemingly certain goal as the Mariners increasingly found themselves on the back foot.
“I felt we dominated the first half but we had to take one of those chances and, if we did that, it would have been a different game,” said Mariners coach Phil Moss.
“We had a couple of games go our way this year in the A-League so now we have experienced the other side of the coin.
“The first thing we did in the dressing room was put our arm around Hutch (John Hutchinson), but he is a great leader and will be back up for the A-League on the weekend.
“Those times they caught us in transition (goalkeeper) Liam (Reddy) was rock solid, but obviously very disappointing to lose the game.”