Central Coast Mariners forward Alou Kuol.
Alou Kuol came off the bench to score Central Coast's winner and settle a tense AFC Cup final. Image by Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS
  • soccer

Mariners make history with AFC Cup triumph, eye treble

AAP May 6, 2024

Manager Mark Jackson was left pinching himself after a late Alou Kuol winner led the Central Coast to their first Asian title and kept an unprecedented treble bid alive.

Kuol came off the bench in the AFC Cup final, scoring in the 84th minute to down Lebanese outfit Al Ahed at Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat early on Monday (AEST).

Kuol’s goal ensured the Mariners became the first Australian club to win an Asian title since Western Sydney Wanderers lifted the 2014 Asian Champions League.

And the striker’s last-gasp heroics netted $2.3m in prize money while keeping the flame burning for an historic Mariners treble.

The club’s AFC Cup success follows the Mariners lifting their first A-League premiership in over a decade last week.

Now the Central Coast, who face Sydney FC in an ALM first leg semi-final tie on Friday, are just two games from an ALM grand final and a chance to complete a treble-winning season.

“I am gobsmacked, I knew we could come and get the win but we had a really difficult game,” Jackson said.

“But we had full belief in the boys, it’s a fantastic achievement for everyone involved with the club.”

The Mariners scooped up the competition’s fair play award, rightback Mikael Doka was named player of the tournament and Brazilian striker Marco Tulio, who moved from the club to Japan in January’s transfer window, was given the golden boot for an eight-goal haul.

“That’s the Mariners way, that’s what we want to create at this football club,” Jackson said.

The club’s campaign has taken them to the farthest flung corners of Asia with Jackson’s side wracking up north of 100,000km in travel.

But it was all worth it when Kuol latched onto Ronald Barcellos’ through ball to slip a shot between the legs of Al Ahed goalkeeper Mostafa Matar to score.

Danny Vukovic lifts the Premiers' Plate.
 It’s been a busy spell for the Mariners, who last week lifted the A-League Premiers’ Plate. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS 

His strike sent the small legion of travelling Mariners fans into a frenzy.

“I’m very happy that I can do it for the team, the club and Australian football,” Kuol said.

“I saw it roll in slowly and when it went over the line, I was so happy.

“Anything is possible, being in the form we’re in – maybe we’re not playing the best football, but we’re grinding out results – I reckon we can do it (a treble), two more games and we’re in the grand final.”

The Mariners face Sydney at Allianz Stadium on Friday and are not expected back in Australia until Tuesday (AEDT).

The club will also go down as the final winners of the AFC Cup, with the tournament set to be reconfigured as part of a shake-up to Asian football.