Harry Kewell creates ‘special’ piece of history in 2nd match in charge of Yokohama F.Marinos

The AFC Champions League quarter-finals await Harry Kewell’s Yokohama F.Marinos following a last-gasp 1-0 win over Thai visitors Bangkok United.

Kewell’s start to life as F.Marinos head coach has been nothing short of dramatic and Wednesday was no different after Anderson Lopes converted an extra-time penalty in the 122nd minute to seal a 3-2 aggregate triumph.

Last week, Kewell – who has replaced A-Leagues great Kevin Muscat (now at Chinese champions Shanghai Port) in Yokohama – saw 2023 J1 League runners-up F.Marinos surrender a 2-0 lead in a wild 2-2 draw in Thailand.

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In wet conditions midweek, F.Marinos were pushed all the way by Bangkok United but as a penalty shoot-out loomed, last season’s Golden Boot winner Anderson Lopes stepped up to secure the club’s first ever Champions League quarter-final berth.

F.Marinos did reach the quarter-finals of the 1996-97 Asian Club Championship before the tournament, Asian Cup Winners’ Cup and Asian Super Cup combined to form the Champions League in 2002.

“We’re pleased we’ve progressed,” Socceroos legend Kewell – the third Australian coach of F.Marinos after Muscat and Ange Postecoglou – told reporters in his post-match press conference.

“We know that nay competition we come up against is going to be very difficult. I give credit to Bangkok United. They gave their all and pushed us to our limits.

“Personally, I kind of feel that we got frustrated. We played the right way but just didn’t create that final pass we needed but we got there in the end.

“I’m proud of my players because they kept on pushing and pushing. That’s the way we want to play. We want to put teams on the back foot. I felt we did that throughout the majority of the game.”

Kewell has had to hit the ground running in Japan after Muscat stepped down last year and became head coach of Chinese champions Shanghai Port.

The former Liverpool and Leeds United winger’s first two matches in charge have been a pair of Champions League last-16 fixture.

F.Marinos will now face Chinese side Shandong Taishan in the quarters – a team they beat twice in the group phase.

Kewell’s F.Marinos will also kick-off their J1 League season against Tokyo Verdy on Sunday.

“I knew the task when I took over. Obviously the last manager Kevin put the team in a very positive position. I knew coming into our new season our first two competitive games were the last 16 of the Champions League, so I knew it would be difficult,” said Kewell, who previously played for Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City.

“I’ve said previously that anyone that is able to make the last 16, you have to give them credit because they’re difficult games to play. It’s different from the league and cup games. You’re playing against the best teams in Asia. It was going to test us.

“We had to be careful of our pre-season training but knew we had to get our messages across.

“There are still areas we need to work on but I can’t fault my players with the work ethic they have shown from day one.

“… it makes it worth it when you create something special for the club by progressing to the final eight. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Meanwhile, Aziz Behich’s Al Nassr also reached the Champions League quarter-finals.

Behich – on loan from three-time reigning Izuzu UTE A-League premiers Melbourne City – played the entire match as Al Nassr defeated Al Fayha 2-0 and 3-0 on aggregate.

Cristiano Ronaldo was on target for the Saudi powerhouse.