Asia AFC Cup

All to Play For as Abdysh-Ata and Mariners Play Out Stalemate

In a thrilling turn of events, FK Abdysh-Ata Kant from Kyrgyzstan salvaged a 1-1 draw against Australia’s Central Coast Mariners in the first leg of the 2023/24 AFC Cup Inter-Zone final at Dolen Omurzakov Stadium in Bishkek on Wednesday, thanks to a dramatic stoppage-time equalizer by Magamed Uzdenov.

Following a goalless first half, Vanuatu international Brian Kaltak broke the deadlock in the 81st minute with a headed goal for the visitors, defying the run of play. However, Abdysh-Ata managed to level the score in the dying moments of added time, setting the stage for an exhilarating second leg in Gosford next week.

Both teams commenced cautiously, with Mikael Doka’s early attempt for Central Coast sailing wide, countered by Bekzhan Sagynbaev’s high header for the hosts. These chances were the highlights of the initial 15 minutes.

As the first half progressed, Abdysh-Ata began asserting themselves, with midfielder Teymur Charyyev testing Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic from distance on multiple occasions without success.

Despite being on the back foot, Central Coast created a rare opportunity when Vukovic’s long ball found Ryan Edmondson in space, but the English striker’s shot lacked power, easily gathered by Marsel Islamkulov.

The half concluded with a dominant yet goalless display from Islam Akhmedov’s side, with Ernist Batyrkanov’s header being the closest chance, comfortably saved by Vukovic.

The second half saw former Kelantan United man Batyrkanov receiving the first yellow card before Edmondson’s header missed the target from a free-kick in the 54th minute.

Abdysh-Ata introduced Suleyman Muhadov and Atai Dzhumashev just before the hour mark, aiming to capitalize on their dominance. Dzhumashev proved lively, registering a shot on target in the 66th minute and later attempting an acrobatic effort that went wide.

Central Coast’s defense was tested, with Storm Roux clearing Khristiyan Brauzman’s header and denying Muhadov’s follow-up. However, it was the visitors who took the lead against the run of play, as Kaltak capitalized on Doka’s free-kick delivery to head home.

Vukovic managed to save Argen Zhumataev’s strike in the 85th minute, but he couldn’t prevent Uzdenov’s spectacular volley in the 93rd minute, leveling the tie.

Both Abdysh-Ata and Central Coast, eager to make history as the first club from their respective countries to reach an AFC Cup final, will face off again in the second leg at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford next Wednesday.