After a long offseason, we finally got the thing we were all missing most: Matt Simon in the flesh. At least in the flesh for those who turned out to Suncorp Stadium amidst one of the heaviest storms of the year.
A Bolt-less Mariners came to Brisbane with coach, Mike Mulvey who was surely looking to get some revenge after being ousted as head coach at Championship winning Roar a few seasons back. With the Central Coast taking the lead in the 4th minute of the game, it sure looked that way.
Pain scored on the counter after Brisbane had one of their first chances of the game. Brisbane managed to keep the same intensity in attacking build-up, pressuring Mariners the rest of the half. New striker Adam Taggart had plenty of chances. The best chance of the half came from an O’Toole cross, but Taggart’s header went just wide. A glaring miss came later in the first half when Taggart had only the keeper to beat, one metre from goal and managed to send the ball into orbit. I wonder if it’ll ever drop back down?
The first half also had some fireworks in the form of Matt Simon. Simon spent most of the half battling experienced defender Avraam Papadopolous, who bested him every time. After a few scrappy tackles in the leadup play, Papa ended up with the ball. Simon was bounding at him full pelt, clearly with one thought in mind; “I’m gonna drop the fucker”. Not even 10 minutes later, Pepper repeated the scenario sliding into the back of Simon, who looked like he wanted to be stretchered off the field. Simon took the honour of captaincy seriously as he joyously inserted himself into every situation with the referee. I almost feel lucky, Simon started the game AND he was captain. What more could you want?
After countless chances in the first half, Brisbane came out firing in the second half. The new midfield unit working well together and the wingers sending in lots of crosses, which somehow all seemed to find the head of Mariners’ towering central defender Kalifa Cisse. The guy has a magnet, surely. It was Cissse who had Mariners best chance of the second half, heading the ball straight into the net with no real challenge from the Brisbane defence only to be called, somewhat uncertainly, offside.
It took Brisbane up until the 60th minute to find the equaliser… wait, never mind. VAR review: no goal. But luckily for Brisbane, after finding the back of the net once, Taggart suddenly remembered where to aim and not even 5 minutes later found the real equaliser. That wasn’t the only VAR controversy in the game, 10 minutes later, Taggart was cut down in the penalty area by former Roar Youth product Rowles, VAR intervened, and Referee Chris Beath went back for an offside call. My personal highlight was the crowd commentary, “Hey Ref, how’s it feel to be redundant?” and “What do you actually do?” being yelled tauntingly at the Assistant Referee. As a Brisbane fan, annoyingly the VAR calls were correct in the end, but damn they ruin the flow of a game. If I can’t complain about the actual decisions, you bet your arse I’m going to complain about how long they took.
With the impending and inevitable arrival of Usain Bolt into the Mariners first team, which is apparently news to Mulvey, it seems the pressure may be getting to Tommy Oar. After having one shot all game and not providing much of a threat in attack, it looks like Bolt might be after his position. I love this league.
It was a little haunting to see Danish winger Tobias Mikkelson wearing the 22 jersey, with his touch and his posture it was almost like seeing a blonde, slightly younger Broich. The other new recruits, Alex Lopez and Stefan Mauk combined well with the rest of the team and both were workhorses. Neither stopped running all game, with Mauk managing to bag Man of the match. Central Coast Midfielder Ross McCormack didn’t seem as dangerous as last season but when he had a shot on goal that sizzled past the crossbar, the heart palpitations definitely kicked in.
After a less than thrilling game against Melbourne City in the FFA cup, Brisbane’s team has actually come together and the passing is almost as good as back in the golden era. Maybe this season won’t actually be terrible? To everyone who tipped us to finish outside the six, we’re in it for now, only 26 more games to go. With Central Coast Mariners set to sign Usain Bolt, how will their season pan out? Their defence seems fairly strong, with both youth and experience mixed in, something they haven’t had a good balance of for a while. Mike Mulvey as head coach may be the sign of a new exciting era for them, could they be in contention for the title once again? Or will the Yellow army borrow the worn ‘Mulvey out’ banner? With Matt Simon as captain, anything could happen.