A second half brace from Besart Berisha and a resurgent all-round team performance saw Brisbane Roar take a point in an entertaining 2-2 draw against league leaders Central Coast Mariners at Suncorp Stadium tonight.
Berisha and Shane Stefanutto were reinstated to the starting eleven following a week out with suspension while defender Jade North was handed a debut and new midfielder Steven Lustica was given a starting role after his cameo appearance off the bench last weekend.
The visitors were without Pedj Bojic and Adam Kwasnik due to injury and Nick Montgomery was suspended, due to his fifth yellow card of the season in the Mariners’ 3-1 win over Adelaide United seven days ago.
The Roar were dealt an early blow inside the opening ten minutes of the match as midfield livewire Massimo Murdocca copped an ankle injury and had to be replaced after a strong challenge from Trent Sainsbury in the middle of the park.
While the home side were down to 10 men, the Mariners took advantage – Mile Sterjovski’s cross from the left bouncing awkwardly for Roar defender Matt Jurman, allowing Michael McGlinchey to score the opening goal from inside the area.
Ben Halloran came on in Murdocca’s place as the Roar pushed forward but the midfield battle was tight and fiercely contested in a half that saw five yellow cards handed out by referee Lucien Lavendure.
Late in the half, Central Coast had two golden chances to extend their lead, first through a Patrick Zwaanswijk header from an Oliver Bozanic free-kick before Roar custodian Michael Theo pulled off an important save to deny their top scorer Daniel McBreen his 14th goal of the season.
Brisbane’s best opportunity of the first 45 minutes fell to midfielder Luke Brattan, whose free-kick in the 18th minute had to be tipped over the bar by Mat Ryan in the Mariners goal.
The Roar won an early corner in the second stanza and managed to find an equaliser – Brattan’s dead ball skimmed across the penalty area and fell to Broich on the left, his deft ball gave Berisha the chance to head the ball into the back of the net from inside the six yard box.
The momentum was clearly with the home side from this point, another pinpoint delivery from a Brattan set piece almost reaping dividends in the 55th minute as Ivan Franjic threw himself at the ball at the far post.
Coach Mulvey opted to bring on new signing Stef Nijland with just over half an hour left to play and the Dutchman endeared himself to the Roar faithful almost instantly, forcing a save from Ryan after he struck a shot on target.
Five minutes later, his involvement was instrumental as Brisbane took the lead, Nijland playing the ball to the overlapping Stefanutto, whose cross into the penalty box made it easy for Berisha to tap past Ryan.
Against the run of play, the Mariners drew themselves level through a left-footed strike from McBreen in the 80th minute, leaving Brisbane with the game to chase late in the match if they wanted all three points on offer.
With three minutes left to play, Nijland showed his class with a curling cross to the head of Berisha, the Albanian bouncing the ball over the bar but the assistant referee’s flag was up and a goal – and Berisha’s hat-trick - wouldn’t have stood.
Brisbane coach Mulvey said he was not completely satisfied with the first half from his side, but commended his players for their response after the break.
“I can’t speak highly enough of their response in the second half,” he said.
“We scored two quality goals and could’ve won the game in the end but the Central Coast Mariners are a
very good unit and it’s not a surprise that they’re on top of the league.
“We’re on the road to recovery – we’re not quite there yet – because we’ll be able to see out the game when we’re ahead like that.”
The draw takes Brisbane Roar to sixth place on the Hyundai A-League ladder.
Brisbane Roar 2 (Besart BERISHA 47’, 69’)
Central Coast Mariners 2 (Michael McGLINCHEY 9’, Daniel McBREEN 80’)
Friday, 1 February 2013
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 7pm local time
Referee: Lucien Lavendure
Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEO (gk), 3. Shane STEFANUTTO (c), 4. Matt JURMAN (19. Jack HINGERT 46’), 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 7. Besart BERISHA, 8. Massimo MURDOCCA (11. Ben HALLORAN 9’), 13. Jade NORTH, 14. Steven LUSTICA (9. Stef NIJLAND 64’), 17. Mitch NICHOLS, 18. Luke BRATTAN, 22. Thomas BROICH
Substitutes not used: 20. Matt ACTON
Yellow cards: Besart BERISHA 13’, Matt JURMAN 30’, Steven LUSTICA 34’, Ivan FRANJIC 42’, Shane STEFANUTTO 83’
Red cards: Nil
Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (gk), 2. Daniel McBREEN, 3. Joshua ROSE, 5. Zachary ANDERSON, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON (c), 9. Bernie IBINI, 11. Oliver BOZANIC (17. Anthony CACERES 60’), 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 16. Trent SAINSBURY (13. Brent GRIFFITHS 90+4’), 21. Mile STERJOVSKI (19. Mitchell DUKE 55’)
Substitutes not used: 20. Justin PASFIELD (gk)
Yellow cards: Oliver BOZANIC 32’, Trent SAINSBURY 55’, Michael McGLINCHEY 86’
Red cards: Nil