Brisbane Roar’s brave title defence has come to an end at the hands of Hyundai A-League Premiers Western Sydney Wanderers.
In a tough and keenly contested Semi Final at Parramatta Stadium, it was the home side who continued their run at the Championship with a 2-0 win, a scoreline which in the end was a little harsh on the visitors.
It was a nervous start for both sides and as they each looked to attack at every opportunity.
However, Wanderers did eventually settle the better and found themselves in front on 16 minutes through Dino Kresinger.
Some hassling work in the midfield by Kresinger and Youssef Hersi won the ball from Brisbane in the middle of the park before the home side shifted the ball out wide on the left to Mark Bridge.
The former Sydney and Newcastle man was able to send a dangerous ball across the face of goal and Kresinger was on the spot with a cheeky backheel to put the Wanderers in the lead.
Brisbane responded well to the setback with both Ivan Franjic and Steven Lustica having attempts at goal, but both were comfortably saved by Ante Covic.
The away side might have had a penalty as the half drew to a close, but referee Alan Milliner waved away Brisbane’s claims after Yianni Perkatis appeared to bundle over Luke Brattan in the penalty area.
Despite several late forays by both teams, there was no change to the scoreline and the Wanderers took a slender lead into the half time break.
Kresinger should have put the home side in front further just after the break when he failed to make any contact on a Hersi cross which eluded the entire Brisbane defence.
On 55 minutes it was Michael Theo with a double save to keep the home side at bay and his side in the tie.
After the initial 10 minute flurry, the game turned into a midfield dogfight, with neither side giving an inch to the other team.
Ben Halloran had the next best chance on 64 minutes when he was picked out by a cut-back into the box by Nichols, but his tame shot was easy for Covic.
But it was the Wanderers who went further in front when Shinji Ono scored a world-class goal – a chip from just outside the box – to bring the house down at Parramatta Stadium.
Hersi, arguably Western Sydney’s most dangerous player, was then given his marching orders for a second yellow card with 12 minutes left on the clock.
However, Brisbane found it difficult to make the extra man count as the Wanderers organised a stout defensive line.
Subsitute Kwame Yeboah came closest in stoppage time, but his effort went just the wrong side of the post.
Brisbane Roar Head Coach Mike Mulvey paid due credit to his side, who had staged a remarkable late season turn around to make the finals and battled hard with the league’s No.1 side.
"I'm proud of my players and particularly the second half, I thought our effort was excellent," Mulvey said.
"Tonight it just wasn't our night.
"On reflection over the whole 90 minutes (Wanderers) were a better side, particularly in the first 45.
"There's no team in the past 10 weeks that's pushed us and pressured us like they did tonight.
Reflecting on the season, Mulvey credited the players for being the ones to turn things around and give themselves a chance to defend their crown.
"The players deserve an enormous amount of credit for the way they've turned things around," he said.
"I think we've given it a red hot go, particularly over the past seven or eight weeks.
"I am immensely proud of the effort the players have put in.
"What I've told them is to feel this moment and feel this hurt, because that will help to drive us next season to be improved."
Western Sydney Wanderers (Kresinger 16’, Ono 71’)
At Parramatta Stadium
Referee: Alan Milliner
Western Sydney Wanderers squad: 1. Ante Covic (GK), 2. Shannon Cole, 4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 5. Michael Beauchamp, 6. Jerome Polenz (11. Tarek Elrich 41’), 8. Mateo Poljak, 9. Dino Kresinger, 17. Youssouf Hersi, 19. Mark Bridge, 21. Shinji Ono (7. Labinot Haliti 89’), 24. Yianni Perkatis (23. Jason Trifiro 74’)
Substitutes not used: 14. Kwabena Appiah, 30. Carlos Saliadarre (GK)
Yellow cards: Hersi (36’, 78’), Beauchamp (52’), Trifiro (86’)
Red cards: Hersi (78’)
Brisbane Roar squad: 1. Michael Theo (gk), 3. Shane Stefanutto, 5. Ivan Franjic, 7. Besart Berisha, 11. Ben Halloran (29. Kwame Yeboah 83’), 13. Jade North, 14. Steven Lustica (8. Massimo Murdocca 76’), 15. James Donachie, 17. Mitch Nichols, 18. Luke Brattan, 22. Thomas Broich (c)( 9. Stef Nijland 70’)
Substitutes not used: 20. Matt Acton (GK), 26. Corey Brown
Yellow cards: Nichols (37’), Donachie (54’), Brattan (73’), Berisha (86’)
Red cards: Nil