I’m calling it now. Ollie Bozanic’s goal tonight will define the Mariners’ season.
For years the Mariners have huffed and puffed - occasionally getting a win but, more often, playing well but falling short for any number of reasons...
Lack of confidence...
Lack of quality in the key moments...
Lack of luck...
Terrible refereeing decisions...
It gets to the point that these all come together and mean that a team just cannot get past the cumulative impact of negative inputs or karma. They inspire a losing paradigm and a team learns how to lose - even from winning positions.
After missing two penalties, and having a goal chalked off, and going a goal down, after being (I'd suggest) the better team - this was a perfect storm for the Mariners to fall apart and start sliding down the table.
I suspect that even the staunchest supporters would've been feeling the bad karma - hurtling towards us like a locomotive in a dark tunnel - yet out of (almost) nowhere - the Mariners took control again and captain Bozanic scored a sensational goal with less than 20 minutes to go.
Shortly afterwards, the Mariners flooded forward again and Josh Nisbet managed - unbelievably - to keep the ball in and get it back to an unmarked Kuol for the winner.
I reckon just about everyone in the A-League community has been waiting for the wheels to fall off the Mariners' 2021 campaign. They've looked dodgy indeed since Gianni Stensness has been out injured, but especially in the last three games they've played like a fading conjuror whose tricks have all been worked out.
But tonight they stopped the rot.
It could so easily have gone the other way. If Bozanic doesn't score that (incredible) goal then the Mariners probably lose that game and the doubt creeps in - maybe to stay.
Instead, Bozanic (after missing the second penalty) took responsibility and dragged his team not only back into the game, but back into the championship.
Winning is a mentality, but so is losing.
That goal demonstrated the knife's edge on which seasons stand or fall, and Mariners fans may well be talking about it as the most important moment in the 2021 season for years to come. (They might also be talking about Marcos Urena a lot more - he's really starting to show his quality. I'd like to see him start with Kuol for a change.)
P.S. Dear Alen Stajcic, I went 15 years without missing a penalty in the Central Coast Football Association. Do you want me to take the boys through the fundamentals of taking penalties? It's not rocket science! (It's more like brain surgery.)
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. His new novel, Welcome to Ord City, is now available.