Big Bahraini with point to prove

14 November 2009 is a date that will be forever etched in the mind of Brisbane Roar’s Bahraini defender Mohamed Adnan - and not for the right reasons.

14 November 2009 is a date that will be forever etched in the mind of Brisbane Roar-s Bahraini defender Mohamed Adnan - and not for the right reasons.

Bahrain had a 50-50 chance of reaching the FIFA World Cup finals for the first time after being drawn against Oceania heavyweights New Zealand in the final two-legged qualifying play-off.

Following the first leg at Bahrain-s Manama National Stadium which ended in a goalless stalemate, Adnan and his countrymen headed to Wellington knowing just one goal could be enough to see them through to the 2010 edition of the tournament, on the away goals rule.

But, New Zealand drew first blood in the must-win second leg with Rory Fallon heading home a corner in the dying stages of the first half.

The Bahrainis were faced with a mountain to climb if their dreams of representing their country on the world-s biggest stage were to come true.

Five minutes into the second period, Bahrain were handed a lifetime.

Veteran defender Tony Lochhead was adjudged to have fouled Abdulla Omar in the penalty box and Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda pointed to the spot.

The responsibility of converting the equalising goal fell to Adnan and as he stepped towards the ball, the crowd around Westpac Stadium roared, urging on their goalkeeper Mark Paston to pull off what would be the most crucial of saves.

Whether it was the overwhelming noise, the overpowering responsibility or something else, Adnan-s uncharacteristically weak right-footed strike was easily caught by the Kiwi custodian and the All Whites went on to win 1-0 and qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Now, just over two years later, the Bahraini has a chance for a small form of redemption in very different circumstances.

Playing for his new club Brisbane Roar, Adnan will face off against Paston, the current Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper, in the same arena for the first time since that fateful night when their respective sides go head to head in a Hyundai A-League round 19 clash on Sunday.

“Actually, the first game we played against them in New Zealand, I thought we were playing at that same stadium so I was preparing myself mentally,” Adnan said, referring to the December meeting of the two clubs in a community fixture in Dunedin.

“I was feeling very nervous because of that stadium, it-s been a long time and it-s a long story.” Paston has been out of the Phoenix starting eleven for the majority of this campaign, only returning to match action four weeks ago against Gold Coast United.

The match against Gold Coast was his first appearance since the opening round of fixtures and for Adnan, his return is timely.

“Actually, I-m looking forward to playing against Paston,” he said.

“It-s nothing personal against him but I have to prove to myself that I can beat this goalkeeper.

“I don-t mean I have to score but we have to win and I think we have a good chance.”

The match takes on even greater significance given the current league standings.

Wellington are flying high in second place with 33 points to their name with the Roar marginally below Ricki Herbert-s men in third with 32 points meaning the result of Sunday-s match could have an impact on final standings and which side, if either, will play in the major semi-final.

“They-re good, they have confidence but we are the same,” Adnan said.

“We beat Central Coast away so we have a big game on the weekend.

“We need three points if we want to refresh our chances to be champions again.

“We have to win this game then we will worry about the other games.”

Since joining Brisbane in the off-season, the former Malkiya and Al-Khor defender has grown into his role alongside club captain Matt Smith in the heart of defence and has shown in recent weeks why he is one of the best centre-backs and one of the most valuable imports in the Hyundai A-League.

However, the humble Adnan is quick to point to his teammates and shift the praise to them.

“It hasn-t been easy,” he said.

“It-s really hard work but my teammates, they make it look easy because I play with such a good team.

“With Smithy, Shaneo, especially the defender players because we play in the same line but the whole team, they make it easy for me.

“They make me feel comfortable and we are doing a good job, but it-s not just because of me - it-s all the players and the staff.”

So, when the Roar are led out alongside the Phoenix on Sunday afternoon, Brisbane fans can count on another strong performance from their Bahraini defender, who has one big point to prove on the Westpac Stadium surface.