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Moss’s ‘bullfighters’ steeled for semi-final with Wanderers

LAST RUN: Wanderers training at Pirtek Stadium yesterday. Picture: Getty Images
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COACH Phil Moss has likened his travel-weary Central Coast Mariners to bullfighters in their steely focus on defeating Western Sydney in tonight’s A-League semi-final.

After arriving back in Sydney yesterday morning, the Mariners have scant time to regroup for tonight’s game after their Asian Champions League defeat in Japan on Wednesday night.

And while the Wanderers took confidence and more recovery time after booking their spot in the ACL second round by thrashing China’s Guizhou Renhe 5-0 in Sydney on Tuesday night, the Mariners’ 1-0 loss to Sanfrecce Hiroshima ended their ACL campaign.

Moss said the defeat had only made his side more determined to win tonight, and they were putting aside all concerns about their draining schedule.

‘‘The loss will affect us but in a positive way,’’ he said. ‘‘There was no disappointment in the dressing room. That was left out on the pitch.

‘‘As soon as the whistle blew on Tuesday you could see the focus turned to Saturday, and I saw that steely resolve in their eyes.

‘‘We’re kind of like the bullfighter – we don’t take our eye off the bull.

‘‘Once you look at the circus going on around you, that’s when you lose focus, and we just don’t allow ourselves to do that.’’

Moss had been vocal about his displeasure at the Mariners’ tough program.

But Wanderers coach Tony Popovic wasn’t buying it, insisting the Mariners had been in similar situations and not been deterred.

‘‘The Central Coast have done a good job at taking pressure off themselves,’’ Popovic said yesterday.

‘‘But they’re a club that has done this many times before. They played a grand final against us last year and, two days later, played a game in Korea and won that. So I don’t think the travel is a problem for them.

‘‘If it is, then the Central Coast players should not be playing the game.’’

Moss hit back, insisting the Wanderers’ favourable preparation put the pressure on Popovic’s men, who will be hungry to avenge last season’s grand final loss.

‘‘It’s not mind games at all. It’s the facts,’’ Moss said. ‘‘I’ve been quite amused to read some of the circus that’s gone on back here. Obviously Popa’s not going to buy that. That’s his job.

‘‘But anyone who knows anything about football knows that the home team carries the favourites tag.

‘‘They haven’t had the travel, they had a positive result Wednesday night.’’

Tonight: Wanderers v Mariners, Pirtek Stadium, 6.30pm.

Tomorrow: Roar v Victory, Suncorp Stadium, 5pm.

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