Two games, two wins, and two Isuzu UTE A-League players whose debut goals in Asia meant the world – for two very different reasons.
Last season’s A-League Men Grand Finalists were both in continental action on Wednesday night, with Champions Central Coast Mariners taking on Stallion Laguna FC in an AFC Cup clash in Gosford, while Premiers Melbourne City travelled to China to take on Zhejiang FC in the Asian Champions League.
The Mariners romped to an astonishing 9-1 win over Stallion, in which defender and fan favourite Brian Kaltak scored his very first goal for the club – and in professional football – aged 30.
And in the Champions League, a 2-1 City win over Zhejiang was decided by 18-year-old Max Caputo, the teenager who is already City’s youngest-ever A-League Men scorer, and looks bound for a bright future after the latest accomplishment in his burgeoning career.
Together, Caputo and Kaltak leapt out as the great individual stories of a magnificent night for Australian football on the continent.
KEEPUP followed along LIVE brings you all the goals, highlights, up-to-date scores and biggest talking points from a magnificent night for A-Leagues clubs in the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup on Wednesday night.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT RESULTS
Zhejiang Professional FC 1-2 Melbourne City
Asian Champions League
Venue: Hozhou Olympic Sports Center, Zhejiang
Central Coast Mariners 9-1 Stallion Laguna FC
Venue: Industree Group Stadium, Gosford
Central Coast 9-1 Stallion Laguna: a record-shattering night for Mark Jackson’s side
The Mariners were under new Football Manager Mark Jackson’s watch for the very first time on Wednesday night – and they were simply sublime against Stallion Laguna FC.
The team from the Philippines were no match for Jackson’s Mariners, with Marco Tulio’s hat-trick spurring the reigning A-League Men Champions to a huge result – well and truly putting to bed the disappointment of an opening-day loss to Terengganu on the road in the AFC Cup.
Dylan Wenzel-Halls scored twice on either side of half-time, and new signing Angel Torres was superb as he supplied two assists to go with his second-half strike – arguably the pick of the the Mariners’ nine goals on the night.
Josh Nisbet and Alou Kuol put their names on the scoresheet – as did Brian Kaltak who, with his 63rd-minute strike, scored for the very first time in his professional club career.
The Vanuatu international captain joined the Mariners in September, 2022 on an injury-replacement deal – his first-ever professional contract. Throughout the next season he signed his first long-term professional contract, was awarded the Coaches Player of the Year award by former Mariners boss Nick Montgomery at the club’s awards night, and ended the A-League Men season as a Champion.
Now, on the cusp of the new A-League Men season, he’s added another special moment to the memory bank.
As for the Mariners, they sit third in Group G of the AFC Cup after two games. Bali United and Terengganu both moved to four points after drawing on matchday two; the Mariners take on Bali United at home in their next AFC Cup fixture on October 26.
Zhejiang 1-2 Melbourne City: Caputo stands tall to send City top of Group H
In a star-studded Melbourne City front line, one name ended up above the rest on Wednesday night: Max Caputo.
The 18-year-old City academy product was thrust into the starting XI alongside the likes of Jamie Maclaren, Tolgay Arslan, Marin Jakoliš and Hamza Zakhi as the A-League Men Premiers travelled to China to take on Zhejiang, but the teenager did not look out of place in a performance that included the match-winning goal for City, nodded home off a magnificent first-half header at Huzhou Olympic Sports Center.
That goal game in the 17th minute, and followed Aziz Behich’s fourth-minute opener as City took a shock 2-0 lead. Zhejiang halved the deficit almost instantly after a foul from Samuel Souprayen on Leonardo in the penalty area directly after the restart sent the Brazilian to the spot, who tucked home the penalty and made it 2-1.
But that’s how the score remained until full-time, making Caputo the match-winner.
Jamie Young did his part to earn the three points, too. The new City signing stood tall in goal and made a crucial save with less than 15 minutes on the clock to keep Zhejiang at bay, pushing Jean Evrard Kouassi’s long-range strike around the post and out for a corner.
City’s 2-1 win kept their unbeaten run alive. Rado Vidosic’s side drew 0-0 with Ventforet Kofu on the opening day, and their win over Buriram United ensured both City and Kofu jumped into first and second spot in Group H respectively.
Next up for City is a clash with Buriram in Thailand on October 25.
COMING UP ON THURSDAY
Macarthur FC v Dynamic Herb Cebu
Date: October 5, 2023
Kick-off: 7.00pm (AEDT)
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium
Re-live the Wednesday-night action with KEEPUP’s matchday blog