AFC wrap: Fans swoon over ‘clutch’ Aussie’s magic, Muscat’s big concern after ‘momentous occasion’

Catch the highlights as Yokohama F. Marinos took on Incheon United in the AFC Champions League.

The 2023-24 Asian Champions League and AFC Cup got underway this week. Here are some of the biggest results so far, including victories for a host of Aussies in action.

Aussies at the heart of Indian giants’ victory

Dimitri Petratos fired home a brace as Mohun Bagan Super Giant began their AFC Cup campaign with a resounding 4-0 victory over 10-man Odisha.

Petratos hit the scoreboard twice after half-time, with the second of those being a lovely lobbed effort over Odisha keeper Amrinder Singh to seal the victory.

The 30-year-old attacker has been a revelation for the Indian Super League side since arriving as a free agent in 2022 following his release from Western Sydney Wanderers.

OPPONENT GUIDE: ‘Ageless’ 39yo fans can’t believe is still playing out to stun Melbourne City
ULTIMATE GUIDE: AFC Comps: An Aussie first, a reunion & a 130km trek
AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: The biggest names to watch in this season’s ACL, including Ronaldo
MELBOURNE CITY’S DRAW: Premiers set to reunite with a former A-Leagues foe

Petratos scored 12 goals and tallied seven assists in all competitions last season, and has begun this season strongly, scoring in Mohun Bagan’s Durand Cup final victory over East Bengal earlier this month.

And it’s fair to say, he’s left quite the impression on the subcontinent.

Fellow Aussie Brendan Hamill also played the full 90 minutes in defence, while new signing Jason Cummings came off the bench in the 55th minute.

Meanwhile, Johnny Warren Medallist Roy Krishna started the game for Odisha, as did Cummings’ former Central Coast Mariners teammate Cy Goddard.

Mohun Bagan now turn their attention to the season opener against Punjab FC on Sunday, before returning to Cup duties on October 3 at home to Maldivian side Maziya.

Socceroo wins battle of the Aussies as Muscat’s Yokohama stumble in ACL opener

Kevin Muscat’s reigning Japanese champions Yokohama F. Marinos have stumbled in their opening Asian Champions League contest, falling to a 4-2 defeat against Korean outfit Incheon United.

The tournament debutants were brilliant on the counter attack, scoring from each of their three shots on target, including a brace from substitute Hernandes Rodrigues – who scored two goals in four minutes to secure the victory.

Yokohama had their chances back the other way, but failed to capitalise on their dominance on the stat-sheet (22 shots to 14, 66% possession to 34%).

The scores were level at 2-2 at the break following a frantic first-half, which saw Muscat’s side twice bring the visitors level, with Ryo Miyaichi’s goal on the brink of half-time tying the scores.

However, it was Hernandes who would be the difference maker in the second-half, scoring two brilliant goals to give the visitors the win.

One-time Socceroo and former Melbourne City defender Harrison Delbridge played the full 90 minutes for the victors as Incheon recorded a famous victory.

“I’ll start by saying how disappointed we are,” Muscat said.

“If you want to play attacking football you have to be able to defend in transition. We weren’t able to do that tonight. All their goals were avoidable.

“When you concede four goals at home, it cancels out everything else in the performance. I think almost every time they attacked, they scored against us. This is something that needs to improve, and quickly.”

Incheon head coach Cho Sung-hwan said: “This is our first ACL and our 20th anniversary as a club. This is truly a momentous occasion.

“We scored twice on the counter in the first half. We conceded twice but our stable counter attacking plan worked well. This is way I select players with pace and competence in 1 v 1 situations”

Kevin Muscat in his post-game press conference.
Best of the rest: Al-Nassr win in Ronaldo’s ACL debut, Neymar’s Al Hilal held

Al-Nassr’s Asian Champions League campaign got off to the perfect start overnight, as the Saudi Arabian side marked Cristiano Ronaldo’s tournament debut with a 2-0 victory away to Iranian giants Persepolis.

An own-goal from Danial Esmaeilifar and strike from Al-Nassr left-back Mohammed Qassem was the difference on the night, as a host of international stars made their ACL bows.

Ronaldo started the contest up front and came close to scoring on his Champions League debut with a header from close range, but could only direct it straight at goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.

The Portuegese superstar was also at the heart of a flashpoint moment in the game, when he was fouled by Milad Sarlak – who was sent off after receiving his second yellow card.

Sadio Mane, Aymeric Laporte, Marcelo Brozovic and Otavio also started the contest for Al-Nassr as they came away with all three points.

The match was in fact played behind closed doors as a result of a social media post by the club in 2020 that caused offence to an Indian team.

Meanwhile, Neymar didn’t have the same success in his ACL debut, as Al Hilal were held to a 1-1 draw at home against Uzbek side Navbahor.

The Saudi giants dominated the contest, firing 20 shots to five, but were time and time again denied by a resilient showing from goalkeeper Utkir Yusupov – who made a host of big saves.

Navhbahor – in fact – took a shocking lead at the King Fahd Stadium when Toma Tabatadze fired home the opener off a swift counter-attack.

Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ruben Neves both came close to finding the equaliser, before Ali Albulayhi saved their blushes with the all-important leveller in the 10th minute of second-half stoppage time.


Melbourne City v Ventforet Kofu
Date: September 20, 2023
Kick-off: 8.00pm (AEST)
Venue: Melbourne Rectangular Stadium
Broadcast: Paramount+

Terengganu FC v Central Coast Mariners
Date: September 20, 2023
Kick-off: 10.00pm (AEST)
Venue: Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium, Terengganu
Broadcast: 10Play