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

Our Inter-Zonal Final tie with Abdysh-Ata Kant is still all to play for going into next week’s second leg at Our Paradise, following a 1-1 draw in Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday evening.

The Mariners dug in and took the lead late through Brian Kaltak’s superb header, but conceded to a well-taken volley in the 93rd minute as Abdysh-Ata ensured the tie remains all square heading into the second leg next Wednesday in Gosford.

Mark Jackson made just one change with Ryan Edmondson coming in for Jing Reec, and the Englishman contributed to two of our best moments in the first half but neither side would be able to break the deadlock before the break.

Edmondson forced a mis-hit clearance after five minutes, with the ball falling to Mikael Doka in shooting range but he couldn’t take full advantage, firing wide.

To Abdysh-Ata’s credit, they were proving to be the toughest opposition we have faced so far in the competition, their tricky and pacy wide players being the Kyrgyz Champions’ main threat.

The Mariners weathered Abdysh’s best spell of the game before creating their best opening of the half on 37 minutes, but Edmondson couldn’t beat Marsel Islamkulov.

A scrappy second half followed, with any good Mariners play disrupted by the hosts, who totted up five yellow cards after the break.

Ayzar Akmatov, Khristiyan Brauzman and Teymur Charyyev were all booked for rash challenges, Angel Torres and Miguel Di Pizio on the receiving end but thankfully coming away unscathed.

At the other end, Brauzman met an Abdysh-Ata corner with a powerful header, but Storm Roux made a fantastic block before scrambling clear.

Despite not really being able to find our usual rhythm in this game, it was the Mariners that took the lead on 81 minutes Kaltak met Doka’s free-kick and planted a header beyond the dive of Islamkulov to make it 1-0. His second AFC Cup goal and fourth of the season in all competitions.

The hosts immediately went in search of an equaliser, Danny Vukovic made the save of the game on 84 minutes, a flying fingertip save to tip over a long range effort, before also dealing well with a wicked delivery from a wide free-kick.

The equaliser did come though for Abdysh-Ata, as Magamed Uzdenov struck well on the volley to find the bottom corner from the edge of the box to make it 1-1.

With the tie left in the balance heading into next week’s second leg in Gosford, get your tickets now and come support the team as we look to become only the third Australian club in history to make a Continental Final.