AFC Champions League: Australian Legends

Despite only joining the AFC Champions League in 2007, Australian players, and clubs from the A-League, have already left a memorable impact on the Continental competition.

When it comes to Australian success in the AFC Champions League, Adelaide United (finalists in 2008) and Western Sydney Wanderers (champions in 2014) are the two stand-outs and it is unsurprising that players from these two sides feature heavily in our candidates for greatest Aussie ACL legend.

However, it was in fact at a Korean side, Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, where one man from Down Under arguably had the biggest impact of the lot.

Take a look at 5 of the top Aussie legends.

Sasa Ognenovski

AFC Champions League Editions: 3

Three AFC Champions League appearances, two finals, captaining a winning side and scoring the opening goal in the showpiece event – it's fair to say Sasa Ognenovski's record reads better than most. And while Western Sydney Wanderers are the only Australian side to win the competition to date, the defender remains the sole Australian to lift the prestigious trophy with a club outside his homeland.

Ognenovski was not part of Adelaide United's debut campaign in 2007, joining a year later ahead of the 2008 group stage, and he would prove a shrewd acquisition as the South Australia side topped their group before eliminating both Kashima Antlers and Bunyodkor. The final was ultimately a rude awakening as Aurelio Vidmar's team lost 5-0 on aggregate to Gamba Osaka, but the defender would make up for the disappointment two years later.

Having joined Korean side Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in 2009, Ognenovski returned at the 2010 edition and gained some revenge over Gamba following a 3-0 victory in the Round of 16. The defender then skippered the side as they overcame domestic rivals Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Saudi club Al Shabab to line up a final against Zobahan of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Ognenovski's scrappy goal in Tokyo opened the scoring en route to a 3-1 win as he became the first Australian to claim AFC Champions League glory, while he was also named man-of-the-match and the tournament's MVP. Two years later he was back to help Seongnam through the group stage once more, but departed in the summer of 2012 for Qatar and has not appeared in the tournament since.

Ante Covic

AFC Champions League Editions: 3

His save against Al Hilal in the 2014 final is one of the most replayed pieces of footage in AFC Champions League history, and rightly so as Ante Covic somehow managed to keep Yasser Al Qahtani's goalbound effort out to stun the crowd at Riyadh's King Fahd International Stadium as Western Sydney Wanderers went on to be crowned Australia's first Continental champions.

Covic had made his competition debut in 2009 for Newcastle Jets, but departed for Sweden soon after, so it was five years later when he truly made his mark. As the last line of defence for newcomers Western Sydney Wanders, and then in his late 30s, the goalkeeper helped the New South Wales club progress past the group stage before overcoming illustrious opposition in each phase of the knockout rounds.

A clean sheet in the second leg of the last 16 against Japanese champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima helped Western Sydney reverse a two-goal deficit to claim an away-goals victory before he saved a penalty at Tianhe Stadium as the Australians ousted defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande in the quarter-finals. Successive shutouts against the 2013 runners-up FC Seoul then ensured Tony Popovic's side's place in the final at the first time of asking.

Underdogs in the final, Western Sydney proved resolute, Covic keeping another clean sheet in the 1-0 first-leg win in Sydney to see them travel to Saudi Arabia with a marginal lead. The heroics, namely the Al Qahtani save, followed as the Australians completed one of the most memorable runs in the tournament's history. Approaching his 40th birthday, Covic would make his final appearance in 2015, but the holders fell at the group stage.

Eugene Galekovic

AFC Champions League Editions: 4

Another goalkeeper who's played a starring role in Asia's premier club competition is the long-serving Adelaide United shot-stopper Eugene Galekovic, who joined the South Australia side in late 2007 and a year later was a key part of the team that reached the final, with his first contribution being to help his side advance from the group stage having conceded just two goals.

Galekovic played his part as Adelaide overcame Kashima and Bunyodkor but a booking in the 3-0 first leg defeat of the final against Gamba ruled him out of the return meeting as his tournament ended on a low note. Two years later he helped Adelaide past the group stage once more before exiting after a 3-2 defeat to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the Round of 16 after his presence in the box had earlier helped his side score at the death to force extra-time.

In 2012, Galekovic kept five clean sheets in seven games as Adelaide navigated first the group stage and then edged past Nagoya Grampus in the last 16 after a 1-0 victory that saw him make a string of excellent saves. It was another extra-time loss, this time to Bunyodkor, that ended the Australians' title charge in the quarter-finals as a 3-2 second-leg defeat in Tashkent ultimately brought the curtain down on what had been a largely successful period on the Continent.

After a five-year spell without AFC Champions League football, Adelaide returned in 2017, but Galekovic was absent for their first two group games as they suffered losses against Gamba and China's Jiangsu FC. The custodian returned to play the final four matches, of which they lost just once, but they were unable to recover from the slow start and exited at the first hurdle.

Tomi Juric

AFC Champions League Editions: 2

While Ante Covic was the hero at one end for Western Sydney in the 2014 final, Tomi Juric was the man who wrote his name into the history books at the other, with his goal in the first leg proving the difference against Al Hilal. Indeed, Juric only netted thrice over the course of the triumphant campaign but each goal, two of which were penalties, proved significant.

The striker netted from the spot in the first leg of the Round of 16 at Sanfrecce Hiroshima in a 3-1 loss before a 2-0 win at home meant Juric's away goal was decisive. In the quarter-finals, Western Sydney travelled to Guangzhou with a 1-0 lead to defend, and Juric's penalty as the hour approached left the defending champions needing three. They got two.

Juric missed both legs of the semi-final against FC Seoul and was left on the bench ahead of Al Hilal's visit to Sydney. Tony Popovic brought him on after 58 minutes and just six minutes later he stabbed home the only goal of the game to send the crowd at Parramatta Stadium into raptures with a strike that would see his hometown club be crowned champions.

The holders exited at the first hurdle a year later, with Juric's last action in Western Sydney colours being to score in the 93rd minute of their final group game as the Australians claimed a 2-0 win at Guangzhou's Tianhe Stadium in May 2015. The Chinese Super League side would go on to reclaim their title six months later, while Juric departed for the Netherlands before spells in Switzerland and Bulgaria.

Travis Dodd

AFC Champions League Editions: 3

Captain of the Adelaide United side in the 2008 campaign, Travis Dodd is another Australian who played a starring role in helping his hometown club reach a final. Unlike Ognenovski and Galekovic, however, Dodd was part of his side's maiden campaign in 2007, scoring in their first-ever AFC Champions League win, against Vietnam's Long An, and then netting a hat-trick in a 3-0 victory over the same opposition in their last group stage game.

With a year's experience on the Continent under their belts, Adelaide, who had now made Dodd captain, were a different proposition in the 2008 edition. After breezing through the group stage, Dodd netted a crucial away goal in the first leg of the quarter-final against Kashima as his side would progress 2-1 on aggregate on their memorable run to the final.

Following the disappointment of the 2008 final, Dodd returned in 2010, scoring the opener in a 3-2 home win against Sanfrecce as he again skippered his side into the knockout rounds. It would prove to be the last of his eight AFC Champions League goals as Adelaide exited to Jeonbuk in the Round of 16.

Dodd left Adelaide in early 2011 to join Perth Glory, but his contribution to Asia's biggest club competition is considerable. He was the first Australian to lead a team out in an AFC Champions League final, remains the top scorer from his country in the tournament and, to this day, is the only Australian to net an AFC Champions League hat-trick.

- The AFC