Interim Guizhou Renhe coach Gong Lei says some of his big-name players 'cracked' psychologically in their 2-1 loss to the Central Coast.
Interim Guizhou Renhe coach Gong Lei says some of his big-name players 'cracked' psychologically in their 2-1 loss to the Central Coast Mariners on Wednesday.
The result leaves the Chinese Super League side without a win in three Asian Champions League matches this season and desperately needing a victory in the return fixture against the Mariners next Tuesday.
The fourth-placed side from last year's CSL were forced into changes prior to the match due to suspension, but more concerning for Gong was the apparent fatigue and psychological issues his team experienced.
Speaking via an interpreter Gong said: "The travelling had a lot to do with the fatigue and signs of exhaustion the players displayed."
Zlatan Muslimovic was particularly wasteful for Guizhou, notably in the 32nd minute when he found himself one-on-one with Mariners goalkeeper Mat Ryan only to fluff his lines, and Gong feels the occasion got to the Bosnian, as well as others.
"Players from both sides had a lot of pressure coming into the game and the pressure really took its toll psychologically on the strikers and they did not perform to the standard that we expected," he said.
As the Chinese side chased the game they employed former Manchester City defender Sun Jihai in a variety of roles, including as a striker, and Gong admitted the move did not pay off.
"Jihai is a very experienced player and we had a strategy in mind before the game," he said.
"Experienced players were able to use their experience to our advantage to better conduct our strategy.
"We took a gamble in order to draw level and we had a few chances but we didn't manage to capture all of them.
"The Mariners finished better than us and that's why they won."
Late in the first half Gong was seen remonstrating with referee Abdullah Baloushi and to be given a stern warning by the Qatari official.
The former Beijing player would not be drawn into comment on the officiating despite his obvious protestations during the match.
"Because of the spirit of fair game I don't really want to comment on the issues of the referee," he said.
"We accept whatever result we get and I'll make no further comment in regards to the referee."
Gong confirmed the side should get some reinforcements for next week's return fixture, with suspended defender Chenglin Zhang expected to return.