Persib Bandung was trailing 1-0 against Arema in the Indonesia Super League semifinals at the Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium in Palembang.
The only goal of the game had come in the first minute of the second half. Persib’s Montenegrin defender Vladimir Vujovic failed to anticipate the bounce of a ball lofted into the penalty area.
Arema’s Brazilian striker Alberto Goncalves took full advantage of the slip, driving the ball across the keeper I Made Wirawan and into the far post. The East Java side, ISL champion back in 2009/2010, had one foot in the final.
With seven minutes remaining, however, Vujovic redeemed his earlier error.
This time it was the Arema defense that failed to clear and the tall defender stooped to sweep the ball home from close range.
The goal took the game in to injury time and further goals from Atep and Konate Makan set Persib up for its first ever ISL finals appearance.
Thousands of Persib supporters, known as bobotoh (a Sundanese word meaning follower), were trying to find how they could get to Palembang in time for Friday’s final against Persipura Jayapura.
The city in South Sumatra will slowly but surely turn blue as the Persib hordes take over the place in a bid to win the ISL for the first time in their history.
That the West Java club is in the final at all is in no small part down to Vujovic.
The goal against Arema was his sixth in 11 games; no mean feat for a striker.
And in the manner of great goal scorers the world over, when Vujovic scores it usually means something.
It was his injury time penalty against Mitra Kukar in the playoff round that earned Persib a 2-1 victory.
In the previous season, his team was struggling to break down a resolute Persik Kediri, Vujovic broke the deadlock halfway through the second half. Persib went on to win that game 3-0.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. While Persib has looked to more traditional outlets for its goals this season, think Atep, Makan, Fedinand Sinaga, Djibril Coulibaly, it is the journeyman defender who has come up trumps at the business end of the campaign time and time again.
Yet Vujovic would be the first to admit he makes an unlikely hero. Persib is his 13th team in a 14 year career that also includes three spells with his hometown club Mogren Budva.
He has played professional football in Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Hungary,
Kazakhstan and Lebanon; a resume that would leave career diplomats gasping for breath, let alone a professional footballer.
It is unlikely though that Vujovic will have engraved his name so indelibly within a club’s psyche as he has at Persib.
His goals during the run to the ISL finals will have given him a special place in the hearts of bobotoh everywhere and as his compatriot, and himself a one time Persib player, Miljan Radovic can tell him, once a bobotoh, always a bobotoh.
Once a Bobotoh Montenegrin Vladimir Vujovic has confirmed his place in the Bandung side’s history.