Brisbane Roar’s 4-3 win over Melbourne City on Sunday was a reminder of just how exhilarating the A-League can be when it’s firing on all cylinders.
The Roar’s decision to take the first of three fixtures to Redcliffe this season was vindicated when a sell-out crowd of 9,387 fans packed Dolphin Stadium, despite a huge hailstorm crashing through the northern suburbs just over an hour before kick-off.
My wife Ashton and I knew all about that storm because we’d just pulled out of Chermside shopping centre when it hit and Ash, who’s as unflappable a Far North Queenslander as it gets, calmly pulled over in a side street close to her old workplace.
I jumped out and chucked a picnic blanket on top of the car as a procession of hail stones pinged off the roof, only for a flooded gutter to then force us to seek shelter in someone’s driveway.
Between chucking the blanket on the roof and stepping out into a street rapidly resembling the Brisbane River, it’s safe to say we were now cold, wet and more than slightly concerned about the state of the car.
But you know what I’ll always remember most about this game? It won’t be the packed stands or Roy O’Donovan’s hat-trick.
It will be the drama of trying to get to the ground, on what should have been a routine journey that turned into an action-packed adventure shared with my Roar-loving partner.
As for the car? Not a mark on it.
Which is not exactly what we could say about Brisbane Roar’s first half performance.
One of the advantages of watching a game at the ground as opposed to on TV is that you get a sense of what conditions are like for the players.
And as strange as it may sound, when Jamie Maclaren nodded home his third goal of the afternoon to make it 3-1 to City shortly after half-time, I honestly thought the Roar were still in with a chance.
Why? Because they had a stiff breeze at their backs which had genuinely troubled them in the first half.
And suddenly any time City opted to hoof it forward after half-time because the Roar were now adopting a high press, they turned over possession.
Some of the stereotypes around the A-League remain a mystery, because in the first half all the Roar did was try and play the ball out from the back, while City’s midfield pinged diagonal balls over the top.
City’s tactic was by far the more successful and in Uruguayan duo Javier Cabrera and Adrian Luna, they possessed the sort of skilful South Americans who can unlock any defence.
With City 3-1 up after 51 minutes the game looked done and dusted, even if the score didn’t tell quite the whole story.
Because the game would have looked very different if O’Donovan hadn’t smashed a well-executed set-piece routine against the foot of the post on the half-hour mark.
Before that O’Donovan looked like he was denied a cast-iron penalty when Harrison Delbridge up-ended the Irishman barely a quarter of an hour in.
And although the Roar’s match-winning penalty was contentious – the letter of the law states that Denis Genreau put his hands above his shoulders, even if it looked like O’Donovan’s half-volley would have taken his head off otherwise – it’s not like the hosts didn’t deserve some luck.
Two individuals arguably deserved it more than most.
One is O’Donovan. After missing a penalty in an FFA Cup shoot-out defeat, the veteran striker never looked like flinching from the spot on Sunday.
The other is Robbie Fowler. His tactical decision to introduce Jordan Courtney-Perkins and Jai Ingham into a more attacking line-up changed the game.
But perhaps the people who deserved that clash the most are the A-League’s true believers.
We’ve got a fantastic little football league when it’s on song. Maybe it’s time a few more of us acknowledged that.