Coach Mike Mulvey likened his Brisbane Roar team to a recovering hospital patient after they drew 2-2 with the table-topping Central Coast Mariners.
Coach Mike Mulvey likened his Brisbane Roar team to a recovering hospital patient after they drew 2-2 with the table-topping Central Coast Mariners on Friday night.
The see-sawing match provided plenty of entertainment for the 10,604 who showed up at Suncorp Stadium.
After a promising start, Roar conceded a sloppy goal on eight minutes when defender Matthew Jurman failed to clear a Mile Sterjovski cross and Michael McGlinchey swooped to put the Mariners in front.
The goal, which was scored while Massimo Murdocca had left the field injured but before his replacement Ben Halloran had come on, seemed to drain Roar's confidence, and Central Coast remained in control for the remainder of the half.
After the break, however, Brisbane looked revitalised, and two goals from Besart Berisha saw them take the lead.
They were unable to hold out for all three points, though, as Central Coast fought back strongly to equalise after 80 minutes through Daniel McBreen.
"If you take a broad view of the game, the first half was very disappointing. Calamitous defending, which is not good enough at this level," Mulvey said.
"When we conceded, for some reason we didn't have the substitute on, and I'm not sure if that was a mix up in communication with the fourth official or whatever, I don't know.
"But it took too long, and they exploited that space down the right hand side. But we defended awfully.
"Then it's like the confidence just drained out of us. And it was like we were strangers.
"So I let them know my thoughts at half time and I can't speak highly enough of their response in the second half, it was magnificent.
"We scored two quality goals and could have won the game in the end. But Central Coast Mariners are a very good unit and it's not a surprise that they're at the top of the league when you see that they've got recovery powers like they showed in the second half."
Brisbane are still lacking the self-belief that won them the last two A-League titles, but they will once again be a force to be reckoned with once it returns, according to Mulvey.
"The confidence is still fragile," he said.
"It's like a patient. We've done some diagnosis, we've had a look at what the problem is, we're trying to do some operations to fix things and it takes a little bit of time.
"So we're on the road to recovery.
"We're not quite there yet, because when we're there, we'll be able to see out a game like that once we've hit the front.
"The second half was more an indication of how I want us to play and how I think we can play.
"And if we can seize on that with regards to the goals that we scored and the way that we scored them, then there's a bright future."
Mulvey praised new signing Stefan Nijland, who came on as a second half substitute having only arrived in the country on Thursday morning after travelling from his native Holland.
Nijland showed he has plenty of skill on the ball and an eye for a pass; his well-weighted ball released Shane Stefanutto on the left to set up the Roar's second goal.
"He's class," Mulvey said of the 24-year-old.
"He's done well to play tonight because he's basically had six hours sleep since he arrived yesterday morning.
"But he'll get better and I think there's more to come from him."