Brisbane Roar will host the Hyundai A-League Grand Final for the second year in a row as they produced a rampant performance at Bluetongue Stadium, withholding a strong comeback from Central Coast Mariners to win the major semi-final 5-2 on aggregate.
The script was written for Brisbane as early as the first sixty seconds of referee Jarred Gillett’s opening whistle as a Thomas Broich special handed his side a crucial away goal.
After the Roar were awarded a free kick more than 30 metres out from Mat Ryan’s posts, the German playmaker whipped in a deceptive ball that bounced twice inside the area, eluding the Mariners defence and sneaking into the back of the net.
The goal boosted the men in orange, who made the overwhelming 17,000 kilometre return trip home from Ulsan, South Korea midweek, and they were celebrating their second 25 minutes later.
As Ivan Franjic made the outside run in a typical Roar attack, Henrique opted to slide the ball through to the oncoming Mitch Nichols, the midfielder executing the ideal finish from close range to beat Ryan.
This meant the home side needed to score five times, and prevent the Roar from scoring any more, if they wanted any chance of hosting this year’s decider in two weeks’ time.
While it seemed impossible, the Mariners staged a commendable comeback, netting twice through a low, driven shot from Patrick Zwaanswijk and a well-placed Adam Kwasnik strike within four minutes around the half-hour mark.
The two goal haul left Mariners with confidence heading into the break, but still knowing they had a mountain to climb in the next 45 minute period.
While the Central Coast’s start to the second half was much brighter than the first, Brisbane’s game plan proved too much to overcome and any hope they had of continuing the run of goals was squashed when Henrique scored the Roar’s third in the 68th minute.
The diminutive Brazilian held his run as Besart Berisha played him in with a clever pass, Henrique skipping past Ryan to easily tap the ball into an empty net to send the strong contingent of travelling Roar fans into raptures.
Brisbane Roar Head Coach Ange Postecoglou was full of praise for his players as they fought the game out in typical fashion right through to the final second of the match.
"I've never been prouder of a group of players than I am right now," Postecoglou said.
"They've been absolutely magnificent.
"We've had a really tough week and to come here, win the game, score three goals and not even think about sitting back at any stage.
"It's easy for me to have that philosophy, but I'm not out there running around and having to do that, I just think the players were magnificent."
Hyundai A-League Major Semi-final – Leg 2
Central Coast Mariners 2(Patrick ZWAANSWIJK 29’, Adam KWASNIK 32’
Brisbane Roar 3 (Thomas BROICH 1’ Mitch NICHOLS 26’, HENRIQUE 68’
Brisbane Roar win 5-2 on aggregate
Sunday, 8 April 2012
Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford, Central Coast
Referee: Jarred Gillett
Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2. Matt SMITH (c), 3. Shane STEFANUTTO (19. Jack HINGERT 70’), 5. Ivan FRANJIC (4. Matthew JURMAN 84’), 6. Erik PAARTALU, 7. Besart BERISHA, 8. Massimo MURDOCCA (18. Luke BRATTAN 59’), 10. HENRIQUE, 16. Mohamed ADNAN, 17. Mitch NICHOLS, 22. Thomas BROICH
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 24. Nick FITZGERALD
Yellow cards: Luke BRATTAN 75’
Red cards: Nil
Central Coast Mariners: 1. Mathew RYAN (gk), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK (16. Trent SAINSBURY 73’), 7. John HUTCHINSON, 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 17. Tomas ROGIC (22. Mustafa AMINI 73’), 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. John SUTTON (9. Bernie IBINI 77’), 23. Adam KWASNIK
Substitutes Not Used: 2. Daniel McBREEN, 20. Justin PASFIELD (gk)
Yellow cards: Adam KWASNIK 16’, Patrick ZWAANSWIJK 59’, Pedj BOJIC 78’, Trent SAINSBURY 90+1’
Red cards: Nil