Match-winner Alou Kuol has re-affirmed Central Coast Mariners’ desire to be A-League Premiers following their thrilling 2-1 win over Adelaide United on Thursday night.
Trailing 1-0 heading into the last 20 minutes and having missed two penalties, the Mariners looked like they would lose top spot to the in-form Reds.
But the double substitution of Kuol and Josh Nisbet turned the momentum of the match, with two goals in four minutes sealing a memorable win for the home side.
Skipper Oliver Bozanic, who missed a penalty just 16 minutes earlier, equalised with a venomous strike before Kuol sealed the comeback soon after.
And as Mariners fans danced in the stands at full-time, Kuol declared the Mariners – wooden-spooners last season – are eyeing off the Premiers’ Plate.
“Of course we are,” the teen sensation told Fox Sports.
“We’re aiming for first place. We’re at the top so why can’t we finish there.
“It was a great effort from the boys to come back from 1-0 down after the penalties we missed and to win in front of the fans is great.”
Asked about his impact off the bench, which has been a feature this season, Kuol said: “I just want to get out there, especially when the team is down.
“I want to bring some energy to the team and get the momentum up.”
That’s exactly what Kuol and Nisbet did when introduced into the contest just after the hour-mark.
Less than eight minutes later the Mariners drew level after Bozanic scored with a powerful strike from the edge of the box, before the two subs combined for the winner.
“It took a lot for us to get that win tonight,” Bozanic admitted.
“Obviously missing two penalties, me being one of them, the boys did fantastic to get the win.”
Before the Mariners’ comeback, Reds keeper Joe Gauci appeared like he would be the hero with two incredible penalty saves.
He denied Matt Simon in the first half before keeping out Bozanic’s spot-kick 10 minutes after the break.
“I knew [Simon] from my time at Central Coast and I know he likes to hit it with the laces so it was just a case of pick a side and dive hard,” said the 20-year-old when asked about his saves.
“I got lucky that he went down the middle.
“[With Bozanic] I just thought ‘he’s a left footer and he might try and open up his body’. It’s just a feeling I had and tonight my feeling was correct.”
The Mariners’ win has snapped a three-game winless run and opened up a four-point lead at the top of the ladder.