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Football: Mariners all but give up overhauling Wanderers

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Central Coast coach Graham Arnold said Sunday he will rest key players over the final two rounds of Australia's A-League, effectively allowing Western Sydney to finish on top of the standings as he juggles an ongoing AFC Champions League (ACL) campaign.

The 1-0 home win over Brisbane Roar on Sunday ensured the Mariners would finish in the top two, guaranteeing them a week off when the post-season playoffs get underway.

The Wanderers have all but sealed top spot and with two rounds to play they lead the Mariners by five points.

But Arnold said that was the last thing on his mind after his tired charges held on against Brisbane, despite only arriving back in Australia on Friday after Wednesday's ACL loss in Japan.

"We needed to tie up second spot because of the Asian Champions League," Arnold said.

"That might change selection policy for next week (against Adelaide United), and (the following clash with) Melbourne Heart. Definitely. I think I'll rest a lot of players."

The Mariners are away to Chinese club Guizhou Renhe on April 9, then slated to host their home semi-final on April 14.

The Wanderers continued their extraordinary debut season under coach Tony Popovic by downing Melbourne Heart 3-1 on Saturday to post a 10th consecutive win and effectively end the Heart's slim finals chances.

Sydney FC climbed to fifth when they salvaged a 1-1 draw against Melbourne Victory on Saturday, with Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero's missed penalty making for even more congestion at the middle of the table.

Adelaide United, who are fourth after an unlucky 1-1 draw with Newcastle and the Victory (third) are assured of making the finals.

rsm/lm

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130317/football-mariners-all-give-overhauling-wanderers