Two goals never enough for Arnold as curse strikes again

Is there a curse on Graham Arnold when his team scores two goals in a huge game? Sydney FC’s shattering exit from the AFC Champions League due to a late goal from Shandong Luneng was the third time “Arnie” has been forced to endure such heartbreak.

Graham Arnold

Source: Getty Images

No wonder the Sky Blues coach told the media conference after the 2-2 draw with Shandong at Allianz Stadium on Wednesday night:  “I've been in football long enough to know it's not over until the final whistle.”

The good thing for Arnold is that, in the first two cases his heart was ripped out – figuratively speaking – he was eventually able to return to those same levels and get what he was after.

The potential is there for him to do the same in the Champions League, but it will be 2018 at the earliest before he can have the chance because Sydney failed to qualify for next year’s tournament.

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Let’s revisit those three moments of horror in Arnie’s career, both as a player and coach, when his team scoring two goals looked like it was going to be enough, but didn’t quite cut in the end, and how he bounced back.

THE AGONY, PART ONE: WORLD CUP QUALIFIER AGAINST IRAN, 1997

It was the worst night in the history of Australian football.

The Socceroos returned from the away leg with a vital goal in a 1-1 draw and after their 1-0 lead at halftime at the MCG became a 2-0 lead early in the second half they were set to become the first team since the history-making Socceroos of 1974 to qualify for the World Cup finals.

But then serial pest Peter Hore invaded the field and somehow got as far as the Iran goal net, cutting it down and delaying the game while the damage was repaired. The interruption didn’t help Australia’s cause, but the game was still there for them to win.

They don’t call 2-0 the most dangerous score in football for no reason, though. Iran pulled a goal back in the 76th minute and equalised in the 80th, forcing the Socceroos to score again if they were going to get through.

Veteran forward Arnold, 34, had watched from the bench as the drama unfolded and in the 84th minute he was sent on as a substitute by Terry Venables as the coach went desperately searching for a late winner.

Unfortunately, neither Arnold nor any of his teammates could provide it and the Socceroos went down under the away goals rule in a 3-3 aggregate score.

THE ECSTASY, PART ONE: WORLD CUP QUALIFIER AGAINST URUGUAY, 2005

Arnold played a huge role as assistant coach to Guus Hiddink with the Socceroos. Hiddink was brought in late in the qualifying campaign after Frank Farina was sacked as head coach.

The Socceroos qualified for a two-legged playoff against Uruguay for a place in the World Cup finals and the South Americans won the first leg 1-0 at home. The second leg, at Homebush, was 1-0 to Australia after 90 minutes, forcing extra time, which didn’t bring any more goals.



Then followed the most famous penalty goal shootout in the history of Australian football, with a sweet John Aloisi strike from the spot eventually sending the Socceroos all the way.

When asked in an interview what had stuck in his mind about that night, Arnold said: “Probably John Aloisi after he scored, running up the sideline with his shirt off and all the players chasing him and they couldn’t catch him.

“I think what it gave the nation and what it has given a lot of good soccer people that have been patient over the last 32 years, as they have had a lot of major disappointments. It was their night as well, because they have been wonderful supporters over the years.”

THE AGONY, PART TWO: A-LEAGUE GRAND FINAL, 2011

Arnold built a terrific Central Coast Mariners team with a mixture of experience and youth and steered them to second in the regular season behind Brisbane Roar. Those two teams advanced to the grand final, with Brisbane hotly favoured to win at home.

But after the 90 minutes finished at 0-0 it was the Mariners who stunned the crowd in extra time, establishing a 2-0 lead with both goals coming in the first half.



That advantage stood until the 117th minute of the match, when Roar pulled a goal back. Then, in the last minute of extra time – the 120th minute of the match – Roar equalised.

On paper at least, the game was still there to be won by either team in the penalty shootout, but in reality the tide had turned and Brisbane took the title 4-2 on spot kicks.

Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Mariners hearts were crushed.

THE ECSTASY, PART TWO:  A-LEAGUE GRAND FINAL, 2013

Arnold held the core of that Mariners team together and added to it with other classy players and two years later they were in the grand final again. This time, they made no mistake, beating Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 without any need for extra time.

“Scoring two goals didn’t hurt Mariners in that match,” you may say, and that is true. But perhaps there is an even bigger curse on Wanderers in grand finals. Don’t forget, they are 0-3 in deciders now.

THE AGONY, PART THREE: AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ROUND OF 16, SECOND LEG, 2016

Sydney got a good result in the first leg against Shandong, scoring an away goal in a 1-1 draw. In the return leg they led twice, 1-0 and 2-1, and were within touching distance of a place in the quarter-finals. But then disaster struck.

Shandong produced a screamer from outside the box in the 90th minute to make it 2-2 and grab the advantage on away goals in a 3-3 aggregate score. Try as they did, Sydney could not rescue it from there.

THE ECSTASY, PART THREE: AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

We’re going to have to wait and see if this chapter is written.


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Published 26 May 2016 at 10:16pm