Mariners’ pursuit of AFC Cup glory continues TONIGHT & their road to success just became clearer

Get set for tonight’s AFC Cup Inter Zonal Semi-Final second leg as Isuzu UTE A-League champions Central Coast Mariners go head-to-head with Odisha FC.

Central Coast hold the ascendancy in the fight for a spot in the AFC Cup Inter-Zonal Final after last week’s comprehensive 4-0 win over Odisha FC – and barring a capitulation at Kalinga Stadium on Thursday night, Mark Jackson’s side are expected to ease past the Indian Super League outfit.

The Mariners made light work of Odisha in the first leg of the Inter-Zonal Semi-Finals, with Storm Roux and Ronald Barcellos adding to a Mikael Doka brace as the Isuzu UTE A-League club eased to a big win at home.

The away goals rule has been abolished for the AFC Cup, meaning Central Coast can’t rely on a goal or two on the road to put them out of sight. Odisha will push hard for a way back into the tie – but all Jackson’s side must do is avoid a defeat by four goals or more to avoid extra time – or a stunning elimination.

Kick-off time and how to watch

Thursday night’s match is scheduled to get underway at 9:00pm AEDT. The game will also be broadcast live and free via 10 Play

The road from here – how do the Mariners achieve AFC Cup glory?

First things first: avoid defeat to Odisha by four goals or more on Thursday night.

The Mariners have one foot in the next phase of the tournament already but must complete the job against Odisha in the Inter-Zonal Semi-Finals.

Then comes the Inter-Zonal Final, which will also take place across two legs against FC Abdysh-Ata Kant (Kyrgyzstan) afteir their 8-1 aggregate win over Taichung Futuro (Taiwan) in the other two-legged Semi-Final.

The first leg ended 5-0 in favour of Abdysh-Ata Kant, and the Kyrgyz Premier League side’s 3-1 win in the return leg on Wednesday night confirmed their path to the Inter-Zonal Final.

Should the Mariners progress past Odisha, victory over Abdysh-Ata Kant in the two-legged Inter-Zonal Final would lead the Mariners, at long last, to the AFC Cup Final.

The tournament’s showpiece event will feature the winner of the Inter-Zonal Final, and the winner of the Western Zonal Semi-Final.

The Western Zonal Semi-Final sees Omani club Al-Nahda take on Al Ahed from Lebanon across two legs in April.

The AFC Cup Final is set to take place on May 5.

Who are Odisha FC?

Formerly known as Delhi Dynamos FC, Odisha FC led the ISL prior to this two-legged AFC Cup tie but, having been out of action in the league since March 3, have been leapfrogged by both Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City to sit third on the table.

A-Leagues fans who tuned into the first leg were reintroduced to Johnny Warren Medallist and 2018-19 Isuzu UTE A-League Golden Boot winner Roy Krishna who returned to an Australian venue for the first time since leaving Wellington Phoenix for India in 2019.

Odisha is also home to former Mariners midfielder Cy Goddard, who played for the Gosford club in 2021-22.

In Spaniard Sergio Lobera, Odisha have a coach familiar with winning silverware.

With two ISL titles under his belt already, Lobera arrived in India following a spell as head coach of now La Liga side UD Las Palmas.

Before he was poached by the Canary Islands outfit, Lobera cut his teeth as an assistant to the late Tito Villanova at Barcelona, where he worked alongside the likes Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez on a daily basis before he accepted an offer from Las Palmas.

Prior to his promotion to assistant, Lobera was a prominent figure within Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy, working alongside some of world football’s best ever players whilst also rubbing shoulders with a certain Pep Guardiola, then Barcelona B coach.