A battle-weary Brisbane Roar has lost 2-1 to the in-form Central Coast Mariners at Suncorp Stadium despite a Herculean effort from the home side.
Brisbane Roar Head Coach Ange Postecoglou’s men last night completed a stretch of four games in 14 days and refused to lay down despite the hectic schedule and, at one point in the match, trailing 2-0.
The result allows the Mariners to leapfrog Brisbane at the summit of the Hyundai A-League, a spot the Roar had held since round two of the current campaign.
Postecoglou opted to leave young Nick Fitzgerald to play in the preceding National Youth League fixture, elevating Massimo Murdocca to starting status and allowing Rocky Visconte to keep his place in the first eleven.
Luke Brattan, returning from a minor ankle injury, was named on the very youthful-looking Roar alongside Kofi Danning, Jack Hingert and Andrew Redmayne.
The Mariners made their intentions known as soon as referee Peter Green opened proceedings, heaping pressure on the Brisbane back four with striker Bernie Ibini close to making the most of a swift acceleration down the left wing if not for the timely challenge of stand-in Roar captain Shane Stefanutto.
Their reward for their quick-fire start came just a moment later in the sixth minute with Ibini’s strike partner Mustafa Amini latching onto a stray clearance from Michael Theoklitos and perfectly combining power and accuracy to punish the Brisbane custodian.
Besart Berisha attempted to make his mark on the game in the 24th minute, showing impressive technique to connect with a swerving ball from Mitch Nichols, but a diving save from Mariners goalkeeper Mat Ryan was enough to deny the Albanian his first goal in four outings.
Five minutes before the break, Amini wasted a golden chance to double his side’s lead after another quick break from Ibini but the 18-year-old snatched at his chance and the ball sailed over the crossbar, much to the relief of the Brisbane back four.
However, the home side did find themselves facing a two-goal deficit at the break when Pedj Bojic found himself in space in first half stoppage time and calmly striking the ball on the half-volley past Theoklitos.
Central Coast boasted the stingiest defence in the Hyundai A-League heading into the fixture and were proving difficult to break down as the match progressed despite the best efforts of substitute trio Jack Hingert, Luke Brattan and Kofi Danning, who provided Brisbane with some additional spark in early stages of the second half.
On the 74th minute mark, livewire Danning skipped through the offside trap to release himself on goal but the ball bounced unluckily and the Mariners were able to retreat back and successfully send the ball to safety.
Shortly after, Issey Nakajima-Farran took it upon himself to create Brisbane’s best chance of the match to that point, collecting the ball from the feet of fellow midfielder Erik Paartalu and hammering his shot from outside the box against the crossbar.
The Suncorp Stadium crowd didn’t have to wait much longer for Brisbane to find their elusive first goal of the match after Danning’s persistence in the attacking third soon paid off with a deflected strike finding its way into the back of the net.
However, despite a flurry of late half-chances, the Ghana-born striker’s goal proved to be just a consolation and Brisbane recorded their fourth loss in a row.
Post-match, Postecoglou was justifiably proud of his team, with several – including Berisha and Nichols – putting their hand up to continue to play for the Brisbane Roar shirt despite having little left physically to give.
“I thought the important thing was that we finished off strongly,” Postecoglou said.
“We had quite a few guys there who were running on fumes and to be honest I’m more proud of that second half performance than I was of winning the whole thing.
“For me it’s about people, at half time it would have been very easy to throw the white flag up because of everything that’s occurred.
“We’ve got quite a few injuries at the moment and there are guys who shouldn’t be out there.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the way they went about it second half, I’ve got no complaints at all.
Echoing his sentiments following the match against Wellington, Postecoglou said his players continued to show the improvement required to turn the results around in the near future.
“I understand that people don’t necessarily agree with my line of thinking but we’re going down this path,” he said.
“We’re not going to change, we’ll keep playing out from the back, we’ll keep copping goals and people will want us to change and do things differently but we won’t.
“We’ll keep doing what we’re doing, we’re not too far off the mark and we’re showing good signs, positive signs about our performances and we’ll keep improving and keep working on it.
“The areas we may be a little deficient we’ll keep working and improving but we’re not going to change and I’m not going to change.”
Brisbane Roar 1 (Kofi DANNING 83’)
Central Coast Mariners 2 (Mustafa AMINI 6’, Pedj BOJIC 45+2’)
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Referee: Peter Green
Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 3. Shane STEFANUTTO (c) (19. Jack HINGERT 46’), 4. Matt JURMAN, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 6. Erik PAARTALU, 7. Besart BERISHA, 8. Massimo MURDOCCA (18. Luke BRATTAN 65’), 11. Issey NAKAJIMA-FARRAN, 14. Rocky VISCONTE, 16. Mohamed ADNAN, 17. Mitch NICHOLS (9. Kofi DANNING 57’)
Substitutes (not used): 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk)
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil
Central Coast Mariners 1. Matthew RYAN (gk), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS 9. Bernie IBINI (12. Troy HEARFIELD 68’), 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matthew SIMON, 22. Mustafa AMINI (2. Daniel McBREEN 77’)
Substitutes (not used): 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 20. Justin PASFIELD (gk)
Yellow cards: John HUTCHINSON 27’, Mustafa AMINI 76’
Red cards: Nil