Roar teen’s stunner & Mariners GK’s heroics help Joeys achieve five-year first with Asian crown

The Subway Joeys clinched a third ASEAN Under-16 Boys’ Championship trophy after overcoming Thailand 8-7 on penalties in the final, and it was thanks to some A-Leagues young guns.

Central Coast Mariners goalkeeper Jai Ajanovic made himself a penalty hero after saving two spot-kicks before Melbourne City defender and captain Jayden Necovski converted the winning effort as an Australia men’s national team won a piece of silverware for the first time since 2019.

Spot-kicks were needed after Wednesday’s decider in Indonesia ended 1-1 at the end of extra time at Manahan Stadium.

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Brisbane Roar’s teenage sensation Quinn MacNicol scored a stunning goal from the edge of the area to equalise in first-half stoppage time – the 16-year-old’s sixth of the tournament.

A thrilling shoot-out then went the way of Brad Maloney’s Subway Joeys, who won the ASEAN U16 Boys’ Championship for a third time and first time since 2016.

“It means a lot to the whole group. They’ve worked really hard and had some tough challenges along the way,” said Maloney, who had A-Leagues prospects Ajanovic, MacNicol, Didulica, Amlani Tatu (Adelaide United), Nickolas Alfaro (Sydney FC), Rhys Williams (Brisbane Roar), Alex Bolton (Perth Glory), Malual Nichola (Adelaide United) and Christian Pullella (Perth Glory) in the starting XI.

As a result of MacNicol’s goal, he ended the tournament as the joint top goalscorer alongside teammate and Western United’s academy starlet Anthony Didulica.

MacNicol became the youngest ever scorer in the 2023 Australia Cup and the third youngest to debut in the Isuzu UTE A-League last season.

It was a breakout tournament for Didulica, who scored six goals – including a four-goal haul in the group phase.

“I didn’t expect it at all but now that’s it come, I’m so happy. I’m over the moon and happy to share it (top goalscorer) with him (MacNicol),” Didulica told the ASEAN Football Federation.

MacNicol added: “It’s a really big achievement.”