Central Coast Mariners become first Australian club to win AFC Cup

Central Coast Mariners become first Australian club to win AFC Cup
  • PublishedMay 6, 2024

Central Coast Mariners have become the first Australian club to win the AFC Cup as Mark Jackson’s side triumphed 1-0 over Lebanon’s Al-Ahed to claim the trophy in Muscat’s Sultan Qaboos Stadium.

Substitute Alou Kuol scored six minutes from time to seal the win in the Asian Football Confederation’s second-tier event in the last final before the region’s club tournaments undergo a significant revamp later in the year.

“I’m very happy for the win and to secure the trophy for Australia and for my club,” Kuol said, who was introduced off the bench in the 64th minute.

“(Jackson) said to give the boys energy and to work hard, work for the team and we got the reward for it.”

A tense and tepid game looked to be heading for extra time when Kuol latched onto Ronald Barcellos’s through pass to slip the ball between the legs of Al-Ahed goalkeeper Mostafa Matar to score.

Victory comes at the end of a week in which Central Coast clinched the A-League Premiership.

Jackson’s side next face Sydney FC in the semi-finals of the domestic playoffs, as they look to defend the A-League Championship title won last year.

There were very few supporters in the stands in Oman but Mariners foundation member Bob Brooks was cheering from his home on the Central Coast.

“When we won, I went outside on my deck at the front and shouted at the top of voice, but I had warned all the neighbours that there might be some noise.”

One supporter lucky enough to be in the near-empty stands was inaugural Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna.

“It was 36 degrees, it was a roasting hot night and a very, very tight game and the Mariners keep doing what they do well and they ground out the game,” McKinna said.

‘The little club that can’

Mariners interim chief executive Adam Thomson said the tournament’s $2.3 million prize money will be well spent.

“It’s bigger than that, it’s staking our claim within Asia and as an international brand, but also to show we can play off Australian soil and achieve greatness,” he said.

The team has taken 21 flights to 10 countries across Asia since September.

They now travel home for the semi-final first leg against Sydney FC on Friday night at the Sydney Football Stadium before the return leg in Gosford on May 18.

Coined “the little club that could”, the Mariners are rewriting their moniker to “the little club that can”.

SOURCE: ABCNEWS

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