Australia's Central Coast Mariners have kept alive their hopes of advancing out of the group stage in the AFC Champions League with a 2-1 home win over China's Guizhou Renhe in Gosford.
Defender Trent Sainsbury's first goal for the Mariners proved the clincher in the Group H match after the Chinese side had equalised through an own goal. The Mariners, who had won only one of 14 previous ACL games, had looked set for further heartbreak after an unfortunate own goal by goalkeeper Mat Ryan cancelled out Pedj Bojic's spectacular 50th-minute opener.
But with nine minutes left, New Zealand international Michael McGlinchey whipped in a tantalising cross for the unmarked Sainsbury to head in at the far post. Sainsbury's strike hoisted the Mariners to four points at the halfway stage in the group, putting them in good shape for next week's return fixture in China.
"We made it real hard for ourselves," Mariners coach Graham Arnold said. "We should have been up 3-0."
Guizhou looked fortunate not to concede a penalty in the fifth minute when Qatari referee Abdullah Baloushi missed an apparent handball by defender Wu Wei, who missed his attempt at a clearing header and swatted the ball out of the area with his arm.
Guizhou threatened early through Bosnian internationals Zvjezdan Misimovic and Zlatan Muslimovic before Bojic struck just after half-time. Bojic picked up the ball on the right of the penalty area and unleashed a dipping left-foot shot to leave goalkeeper Zhang Lie flailing.
Guizhou received a lifeline in the 71st minute when defender Joshua Rose headed a free kick from Misimovic onto his own post, only for it to rebound off goalkeeper Ryan's chest and roll over the line. Sainsbury made amends with his unchecked header to breathe new life into the Mariners' ACL campaign.