Brisbane Roar have re-joined the Hyundai A-League winners’ circle in style, coming from behind to beat Melbourne Victory 3-1 in an entertaining New Year’s Eve encounter at Suncorp Stadium.
Head Coach Ange Postecoglou opted for a different formation to his norm, fielding all three of his central defenders in a 3-4-3 as the goal-scoring responsibility fell on the shoulders of attacking trio Besart Berisha, Mitch Nichols and Rocky Visconte.
In the fixture that was hyped as the most entertaining of the three New Year’s Eve match-ups in the Hyundai A-League, the game did not disappoint with end-to-end football on show as soon as the opening whistle was blown.
Brisbane found themselves on the back foot just three minutes into the encounter after Qantas Socceroo Harry Kewell dazzled his way through the home side’s defence and unleashed a low, driving shot into the back of the net from 25 yards out.
The Roar were quick to react and almost had an equaliser within sixty seconds with Nichols hammering a shot off the upright before the rebound fell to the feet of Shane Stefanutto, who rocketed his shot over the crossbar.
Ante Covic was called into action by Nichols just after the twenty minute mark, the young midfielder playing a quick one-two with teammate Luke Brattan but sending his shot straight into the arms of the Victory ‘keeper.
While both teams looked dangerous with the ball at their feet, the Roar continued to dominate the possession statistics and were beginning to find some joy exploiting the space on the right wing.
Ivan Franjic, enjoying an even more attacking role than usual, had two shots from distance while big central defender Mohamed Adnan even found himself with time to take a shot inside the penalty area.
The next chance for Brisbane fell to Erik Paartalu on the edge of the area, the defensive midfielder forcing a fingertip save from Covic with a powerful strike.
But it was the active Nichols, who was heavily involved in all of Brisbane’s attacking forays, who finally broke the deadlock for the home side, heading home a well-weighted Stefanutto cross to level the score right before half-time.
The Roar continued their momentum in the early stages of the second stanza, scoring twice in four action-packed minutes to take a dramatic lead in front of their faithful supporters at the Caxton Street end of Suncorp Stadium.
Berisha picked up two assists, first laying off the ball for Visconte to use his lethal left foot to his side’s advantage before creating space for Franjic to calmly slot under Covic – the first appearance on the scoresheet of the season for both goal scorers.
Victory rarely troubled Brisbane custodian Michael Theoklitos as the half wore on and Ange Postecoglou’s troops held on to secure an important victory.
The Brisbane coach said it was only fitting his side should finish the year of as winners given the multitude of success 2011 brought to the club, including a maiden Hyundai A-League premiership and championship double and a 36-match undefeated streak.
“It was great to win, for sure, and you feel good about that and it’s good to see some smiles on peoples’ faces,” Postecoglou said.
“It’s been a tough, little grind this one but it’s just a good way to end the year because it’s been a great year for us.
“I’m really proud of the players, they played good football, scored some goals and that’s the kind of team we want to be.”
Brisbane Roar 3 (Mitch NICHOLS 44’, Rocky VISCONTE 50’, Ivan FRANJIC 53’)
Melbourne Victory 1(Harry KEWELL 3’)
Saturday, 31 December 2011
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Referee: Jarred Gillett
Crowd: 14, 852
Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2. Matt SMITH (c), 3. Shane STEFANUTTO (19. Jack HINGERT 80’), 4. Matt JURMAN, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 6. Erik PAARTALU, 7. Besart BERISHA, 14. Rocky VISCONTE, 16. Mohamed ADNAN, 17. Mitch NICHOLS (8. Massimo MURDOCCA 55’), 18. Luke BRATTAN (11. Issey NAKAJIMA-FARRAN 69’)
Substitutes not used: 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk)
Yellow cards: Mohamed ADNAN 33’
Red cards: Nil
Melbourne Victory: 2. Matthew FOSCHINI, 3. FABIO, 4. Petar FRANJIC, 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 10. Archie THOMPSON (c), 12. Rodrigo VARGAS, 13. Diego FERREIRA (8. Grant BREBNER 64’), 14. Billy CELESKI (19. Isaka CERNAK 76’), 16. Carlos HERNANDEZ (18. Daniel ALLSOPP 64’), 21. Ante COVIC (gk), 22. Harry KEWELL
Substitutes not used: 20. Lawrence THOMAS (gk)
Yellow cards: Rodrigo VARGAS 20’, Billy CELESKI 44’, Daniel ALLSOPP 78’
Red cards: Nil