"The best minute of my career" - an unforgettable comeback immortalised by iconic images
If Ange Postecoglu's Brisbane Roar learned anything along their 27-game unbeaten run heading into the 2010/11 A-League Grand Final, it was to never accept defeat until the final whistle made that defeat a foregone conclusion.
Trailing Central Coast Mariners by two goals to nil 117 minutes into the 2011 title decider, the Premiership winners faced the biggest challenge to their belief in that fact.
90 goalless minutes preceded a shock Mariners onslaught in the first half of extra time, as the underdogs struck twice through Adam Kwasnik and Oliver Bozanic to silence the 50,000-strong Suncorp Stadium crowd at the midway point of the additional 30-minute period.
Defeat was surely inevitable for the Roar at Suncorp Stadium - until it wasn't.
"As a group, we knew we’d scored goals before late in games," said Matt Mckay, Brisbane legend and captain on that day in March, 2011.
"I don’t think we played our best game in the 90 minutes or even after, I thought we were a bit rusty, but we knew we were fit.
"It was probably one of the fittest teams I’d ever been in, and that’s why we’d run over teams throughout the season and got results late, so we were confident still going into extra time.
"We’d done it all season going about 27 games or so unbeaten, we’d come from behind before and the players knew that."
"We had a really good Semi Final win over Central Coast - a come from behind draw (2-2) that was at home," McKay added.
"I’m a pretty positive guy, we had a little huddle (halfway through extra time) and I mentioned we’d scored two goals before.
"The speech wouldn’t have meant anything if we didn’t go and score, but everyone said afterwards that 'Matt said this and he believed in us'.
I couldn’t tell you if I was 100% sure it was going to happen, but I was pretty positive that we could still get something out of the game. ‘We’re not going to drop our heads, keep trying’ - that was the message."
Brisbane emerged for the final 15 minutes of extra time trailing by two goals - and 12 of those final minutes ticked by with their deficit remaining the same.
Graham Arnold's Mariners were three minutes away from their coronation, before Roar substitute Henrique popped up in the box to find the back of the net. Finally, after 117 minutes, the Premiers had their breakthrough. The home fans broke into subdued celebration as Henrique returned emotionless to his position for the resumption of play.
Suddenly, those three remaining minutes represented opportunity, instead of the delay of the inevitable. And when Erik Paartalu ventured forward for a last-gasp Roar corner, McKay camped himself outside the penalty area to watch his teammate head home the emphatic equaliser, to spark what was to be the best minute of his playing career captured by iconic images of the Roar captain.
"I was on the edge of the box for the corner. I thought it was a bit over-hit so I was running to get the ball just in case it went over the top of everyone, and then once it went in I just kept running that way," McKay said.
"I missed the team celebration, but it’s pretty iconic now.
"It was by far the best minute of my career, I didn’t touch the ball, but just that feeling of achievement, of getting back into the game.
"It’s probably the loudest Suncorp has ever been as well. It was really deserved for everyone that was there on the day."
BELOW: Gallery - McKay wheels off in celebration of Brisbane Roar's equalising goal
Snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat led the Roar into a penalty shootout in which there was only ever going to be one winner after the late drama which transpired in stoppage time.
The stadium was abuzz with noise, with avid Roar fans crammed in behind the goal providing the backdrop to the penalty shootout. Postecoglu's persistent, relentless Roar had displayed all the best qualities which made them untouchable throughout the regular season in the final three minutes of extra time to challenge the Mariners to beat them all over again, after the first attempt to do so failed.
"They were really nervous," McKay said.
"You could see how nervous they were - don’t get me wrong, I was nervous as well. I took one of the penalties, I was very fortunate that the person before me missed so that gave me a bit of confidence.
That final penalty was a great moment. You’re watching the crowd cheering and then all of a sudden it’s silent, as Henrique (takes) his penalty - that’s pretty cool as well, that bit of silence.
"It was a phenomenal achievement for the team from where we were the year before.
"To be the first Brisbane team to win the (Championship) was really special, and I was very grateful to be the captain and lead the team.
"But I guess along the journey with Ange and all the players that were a part of it, I think we all grew from it.
"A lot of the players went on to win more titles, but also went to further their careers by going overseas or make national teams as well.
"It was a good period for the club, and really good for the players to have that opportunity.
"It was a really good day, and something that I still get told about around Brisbane, the day that they were there watching that Grand Final, how good it was and how loud it was."
BELOW: Gallery - Henrique penalty seals shootout win for Roar
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