Free agent and current Sydney FC trialist Ante Covic says his extraordinary save in the 2014 ACL final was his “John Aloisi” moment.
The classy stopper was a pivotal figure two years ago when Al Hilal and Western Sydney Wanderers met in the final.
The Hyundai A-League club took a slender 1-0 lead to Riyadh thanks to a Tomi Juric goal.
And after keeping out the marauding blue shirts in the second leg (and having a laser shone in his face from the packed terraces of the King Fahd) Covic produced a moment of genius that kept the Aussies in the game.
The save is generally regarded as one of the greatest ever by an Australian keeper – particularly significant given the occasion and late stage in the game.
With six minutes of regulation time left, Al Hilal were furiously pressing for an elusive goal and got in behind Wanderers with a give-and-go.
A cut back found Saudi great Yasser Al Qahtani – nicknamed “The Sniper’ for his lethal goal-scoring – unmarked in space about two metres in front of the six-yard box.
The Saudi great looked to have leveled the final with his firmly hit low shot which appeared to have beaten Covic.
But in a flash, the Aussie keeper was able to somehow contort his body enough to push the ball from behind him wide and away. Amidst legs and bodies, it was scrambled clear as Al Hilal struggled to believe what they’d just seen.
And just minutes later, Wanderers celebrated an incredible ACL win.
“I think everyone thought it was in. It was close range and I was blinded for a second and you just have to react instantly,” Covic told www.a-league.com.au recently.
“And you know what, at one point even though I’d got a good hand to it I thought, ‘have I done enough to stop the ball?’
“But when I saw the ball trickle past the post it was such a relief. It was a shot that should’ve never been stopped.
“I guess that’s why a lot of people talk about it and why I’m extremely proud of that save.
“That’s the highlight of my career,” Covic, 41, said.
“Asian Champions League is no mean feat for a relatively small club from Australia.
“And to produce something like that for me personally right at the end when we were under the pump so much is a once in a lifetime opportunity and people do talk about that save.
“I know the significance of that save and I do watch it back and get the goosebumps thinking about it. I’ve seen replays and it was one of those moments you dream about as a footballer.
“It happened to me and a big part of the reason why we walked away with that championship. I’ve got to be proud, I was proud of the whole team but if there was a time for me to step up personally, that was it.
Covic, who left Wanderers and joined Glory at the end of last season, wasn’t offered a new deal by Kenny Lowe and is now trialing with Sydney FC.
“I’ll never forget it. I sort of say it’s my John Aloisi moment,” Covic said of his save.