Brisbane Roar has kicked off their Hyundai A-League title defence with a solid 1-0 win over Central Coast Mariners with midfielder Mitch Nichols’ 72nd minute goal the difference at Suncorp Stadium.
209 days after claiming their maiden league championship in dramatic fashion, Brisbane Roar returned to the site of the victory to take on the same opponents in the season opener.
Head Coach Ange Postecoglou fielded seven of the players that started the epic Grand Final win while handing home debuts to Matt Jurman, Issey Nakajima-Farran and Besart Berisha – the young central defender had a solid performance and the attacking pair looked energetic in the final third.
Twenty minutes in, Berisha threatened with a left-footed free-kick that flew just high of the crossbar while his Canadian counterpart was difficult to keep contained every time he had the ball at his feet.
Despite the impressive nature of the duo’s debuts, the best chance of the half fell to the lively Nichols five minutes later.
Latching onto a deft through-ball from Nakajima-Farran and carefully rounding Mariners custodian Matt Ryan, the angle proved too tight for Nichols who sent his shot rocketing off the upright.
Grand Final goal-scorer Oliver Bozanic almost derailed the Roar’s impressive work in the opening stanza with a quick-paced run and powerful shot on the 40 minute mark but it was the impressive play of the team in orange that was the real talking point when the two sides headed inside for the break.
Brisbane captain Matt Smith proved his worth to the side with a goal-line clearance three minutes after the restart before Ryan kept the Mariners in the match soon after by pulling off a diving save from a James Meyer shot.
The Roar continued their dominance across the park but failed to take their numerous chances in front of goal as Ryan’s unrelenting presence between the posts proved tough to break down.
The home side finally had a deserved goal after 72 minutes, courtesy of a well-taken strike from Nichols - the attacking midfielder finding himself in space after a dazzling run from Ivan Franjic and making no mistakes from the inside of the penalty area.
Ten minutes from full-time, Postecoglou introduced Kofi Danning into the equation at the expense of Nakajima-Farran and the young striker’s explosive pace created nervy minutes for the Central Coast defence late in match and almost earned Brisbane’s second on the stroke of full-time.
Coach Postecoglou’s troops held on to take the three points and post-match, the Brisbane Roar coach said he had no complaints about the performance of his side.
“It’s always a funny one going into the first game, we know we’ve done the work but it’s such a long time since we’ve played so you’re a bit nervous about how you’ll go,” Postecgolou said.
“I was really pleased with the boys, we played our football and we had to be patient but at the same time I thought we were forcing it when we needed to and worked hard defensively when we needed to.
“Overall, it was really pleasing and as a first up game, I really couldn’t ask for any more and it sets up a real good foundation for us to keep improving this year.”
Brisbane Roar 1 (Mitch NICHOLS 72’)
Central Coast Mariners 0
Saturday, 8 October 2011
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Local kick-off: 7.45pm
Referee: Chris Beath
Crowd: 13, 467
Brisbane Roar line-up: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2. Matthew SMITH (c), 3. Shane STEFANUTTO, 4. Matthew JURMAN, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 6. Erik PAARTALU, 7. Besart BERISHA (8. Massimo MURDOCCA 66’), 11. Issey NAKAJIMA-FARRAN (19. Kofi DANNING 80’), 17. Mitchell NICHOLS, 21. James MEYER, 22. Thomas BROICH
Substitutes Not Used: 16. Mohamed ADNAN, 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk)
Yellow Cards: Shane STEFANUTTO 57’
Red Cards: Nil
Central Coast Mariners line-up: 1. Matthew RYAN (gk), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Bradley PORTER, 6. Patricius ZWAANSWIJK (c), 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS (2. Daniel McBREEN 86’), 10. Adriano PELLEGRINO, 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY (12. Troy HEARFIELD 66’), 17. Michael BAIRD (23. Adam KWASNIK 58’), 19. Matthew SIMON
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Justin PASFIELD (gk)
Yellow Cards: Pedj BOJIC 7’, Michael BAIRD 23’, Rostyn GRIFFITHS 50’, Bradley PORTER 81’
Red Cards: Nil