“We’re excited. Big games like this don’t come around too often” Vuka and Jacko’s pre-match thoughts

Central Coast Mariners are back at Our Paradise on Wednesday evening, for our biggest game of the season so far and one of the biggest in our club’s history.

Mark Jackson’s side face Abdysh-Ata Kant in the AFC Cup Inter-Zonal Final second leg, a win books our place in the Final and would enter the history books as the Mariners’ first ever appearance in a continental final.

This is the Mariners first game since last week’s first leg as Sunday’s scheduled game against Adelaide was postponed, after unforeseen travel disruption meant the team didn’t arrive back on the Coast from Bishkek until Sunday morning.

Jacko says the team made most of the opportunity and are ready to give the second-leg their all on Wednesday evening at Our Paradise, speaking in his pre-match press conference just after midday on Tuesday:

“It was a strange circumstance for the team but we made the most of the opportunity. We had to stay longer in Kyrgyzstan, then had a layover in South Korea, before flying back to Sydney.” Jackson explained.

“It was an experience but something we coped well with. We discovered a bit of the country and did some team bonding with the players. We got an extra training session in as well so that was a positive.”

⏮ Battle in Bishkek

The Mariners come within minutes of bringing home a 1-0 advantage but Brian Kaltak’s header was cancelled out in injury time, meaning it is all square going into the second leg. Jackson says the team have learned a lot from the first leg about a ‘dangerous’ side.

“We learned a lot about the opposition. When you come up against teams like that footage is sometimes limited. We knew they were going to be dangerous because of the calibre of players they have, with a lot of internationals, and they really dominate their league.” Jacko said.

“We learned a lot about what we need to do in the second leg. I thought although we limited their chances, they had a lot of the ball and we didn’t play our usual game in possession. We can be better and we’ve spoken a lot about it and we’ll make sure we’ll be ready for the second game.”

“Of course when you conceded right at the end there is an air of disappointment but you can break any goal down and be hyper-critical. The lads weren’t far off the positions we would want them to be in when we’re defending the box.”

“The lad has pulled off into a good position and got an excellent strike, a clean strike. We are disappointed but also to some extent they deserved the goal and we have to take it on the chin.”

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

🏠 Back at home for a BIG game

“[The players] want to play in big games and in fantastic venues like we’re lucky to have here. We’re ready to bring everything to the fixture,” he said.

“It will be really challenging against this opponent but we’re ready for it and excited of the prospect of going into an AFC Cup Final.”

We’ve all worked hard to out ourselves into a really privileged position, to be fighting for three trophies. That doesn’t come around often in football so we are really determined as a group to take the opportunity.

Mark Jackson on Mariners’ treble chances.

“We understand it’s one game at a time and we have a massive task ahead of us but we are focussed on this one game and that has been our mantra all season. We’re not looking too far ahead, we’re giving all our attention to this fixture, that it has worked well so far so hopefully it will be the case again.”

🗣 Vukovic: “We’re excited. Big games don’t come around too often.”

Danny Vukovic was also at the Official AFC Pre-Match Press Conference on Tuesday. The skipper gave credit to the opposition after he was forced into some key saves in the first leg. He also can’t wait to be back in front of the Mariners faithful and says it would be ‘massive’ to captain the club to an Asian final.

“Disappointing to concede so late and not win but you have to look at the positives.” Vuka said on the first leg.

“Although we didn’t play our best, we nullified them to minimal chances. We know we need to be better with the ball and we’re confident we can do that. We love playing here at home in front of our home fans.”

“They are a good side. Individually they are very talented. It was difficult going into the game, we didn’t know a lot about them. We had watched video but it wan’t the best quality,” he said.

“We learned a lot and we’re expecting another tough game. We need to be at our best if we are going to win the game and we are determined to do that as we felt we weren’t at our best in the first leg.”

“It will be massive, to be here at the start where it all began to be playing here in Asia with a chance to win a trophy.”

“Everyone is really looking forward to the game, we’re excited for a big game. Big games don’t come around too often and you want o play in them so we’re really excited.” Vuka said.