FARRELL AND KUOL RETURN: Team news as history to be made at Our Paradise

Central Coast Mariners are back at Our Paradise on Wednesday evening for the second leg of our huge AFC Cup Inter-Zonal Final against Abdysh-Ata Kant.

The tie is in the balance, and a place in the Final is all to play for following a 1-1 draw in Kyrgyzstan last week.

Brian Kaltak thought he had won it for the Mariners with a well taken header on 81 minutes but the home side battled to the end in front of their third-highest ever attendance and equalised in stoppage time to ensure the two sides go into the second leg all square.

A draw was a more than respectable outcome for the Mariners, in difficult conditions the Mariners became the first away side in the AFC Cup this season to avoid defeat in Kyrgyzstan. Abdysh-Ata have also not dropped points at home in domestic or continental competition since May 2023.

READ MORE: Inter-Zonal Final all to play for after battle in Kyrgyzstan

History is on the line for the Mariners in the second leg, we have never made the final of a continental competition and would join an exclusive list by doing so on Wednesday, Adelaide (2008) and Western Sydney Wanderers (2014) are currently the only clubs in A-League history to have made continental finals. Central Coast Mariners are flying the flag for Australia in Asia.

Mariners and Abdysh-Ata are competing for a place in the final where Lebanese side Al-Ahed await. The 2019 AFC Cup Champions booked their place in the final on Tuesday evening after a 2-2 draw in Oman against Al-Nahda sealed a 3-2 aggregate win.

Scottish forward Lee Erwin netted two late on to seal the nine-time Lebanese Champions’ place in the final.

The Mariners have not been in action since that trip to Kyrgyzstan, as travel disruption meant we did not arrive home in time for our scheduled Isuzu UTE A-League clash against Adelaide United on Sunday, that game has been now rescheduled for May 1st, 7pm kick-off.

READ MORE: Adelaide United (H) rescheduled date and time confirmed

🗞 Team news

Mark Jackson welcomes back Alou Kuol and Jacob Farrell who both come straight into the starting eleven after returning from Olyroos duty in Qatar. Christian Theoharous is the third change to the starting eleven from the first leg.

Both Alou and Jacob missed the first leg of this tie as well as our A-League win over Western United, with their return a huge boost for Jackson’s side ahead of tonight and two huge domestic fixtures in the next seven days.

🇰🇬 Abdysh-Ata Kant

This is Abdysh-Ata’s first ever time in continental competition, and therefore their first ever trip to Australia for a competitive match.

Islam Akhmedov’s team are back-to-back Kyrgyz Premier League Champions and have began the 2024 season with three wins out of three.

In the AFC Cup this season, Abdysh-Ata cruised through Group E with 16 points and advanced to the Inter-Zonal Final against ourselves in style, defeating Taichung Futuro 8-1 over two legs.

The Kyrgyz side proved in the first leg that they are the toughest side we have faced so far in the competition and another test is expected in the second leg as both sides are looking to make their first ever continental final.

Read more about our Inter-Zonal Final opponents

🗣 From the gaffers

After a tense first-leg battle, both managers believe more is to come from their sides, both saying that they were not at their best and will be better in the second leg.

Akhmedov said: “Perhaps in the first leg, the players were a little nervous because we were up against quality opposition in a high level game, but I’m confident that the second game will be better than the first one.”

Jackson was happy with his side defensively and how we limited Abdysh, without being at our best, but expects more from his team in possession in the second-leg.

Speaking after the game in Kyrgyzstan last week, Jacko said:

“It was a very difficult game against a strong opponent who played well and put us under pressure.”

“Defensively we were quite good, we limited their opportunities but we weren’t at our best with the ball today, we know we can be better.”

“We got ourselves into a good position with the goal but unfortunately couldn’t see the game out. We go away happy with a draw and ready to play in the next leg”

Jackson was also complimentary of Abdysh-Ata as a team, insisting that despite limited opportunities for analysis due to video quality, the Mariners expected a tough test against a good team.

“They didn’t surprise us we knew they were a good team. They played well, they have good players and play with freedom and movement. There were no surprises, we knew how good they were.”

“They have a lot of good players. The centre forward, wide players and centre back are good players. They have a lot of good players, not to single one out. They are a good team, we respect them massively but we feel as a team we can do a lot better.”

“We weren’t at our best but we still contained our opponents. It’s up to us to get better in the second leg and we will, but we have a good score and we’re pleased with a draw today.”

“We could have defended better to stop the equaliser but we kept going, we stayed strong. It was more in possession today where we weren’t happy. We felt we can be better with that and cause our opponents more problems so we’ll solve that issue and be ready for the next game.”