Brisbane Roar’s aspirations of becoming the first Hyundai A-League club to successfully retain the Premiers Plate is alive and well thanks to a crucial 2-1 win over the Newcastle Jets in Newcastle.
The away side was made to work hard for the three points which keeps the pressure on league leaders Central Coast Mariners, who sit two points ahead on the table with just one game of the regular season left to play.
Brisbane was guilty of wasting a raft of chances and it looked as though they would rue those misses, handing the Premiers Plate over to the Mariners, but a late Mitch Nichols penalty was enough to bag all three points.
Brisbane was given a warning early when Newcastle winger Ali Abbas found himself on the end of a Jeremy Brockie through ball his shot with the outside of the foot, but the ball went just wide of the upright with Theoklitos beaten.
The roles were reversed two minutes later with Brockie on the end of an Abbas ball across the box, this time Theoklitos had his post well covered to make the save.
However it was Brisbane who took the lead on 13 minutes with a sublime finish from Besart Berisha following some strong lead up work from Jack Hingert.
Hingert made a strong run down the Brisbane left before delivering a perfectly time ball to Berisha, who turned and calmly slotted past an onrushing Ben Kennedy to open the scoring.
The goal from Berisha – his 19th of the season – saw the striker join Shane Smeltz in the record books for the most goals scored in a single Hyundai A-League season.
Newcastle’s goal was leaving a charmed life, with the woodwork stopping first Henrique and then Berisha from extending the lead in the space of just a few short minutes.
Issey Nakajima-Farran also looked to get in on the action, but despite being one-on-one with Kennedy, couldn’t find a shot to get past the Jets’ keeper.
Just before the break Newcastle found an equaliser against the run of play when Brisbane conceded a free kick just outside their defensive box, Abbas stepped up and with the wind at his back gave Theoklitos no chance to save the ball.
Berisha had a chance to regain the lead just two minutes into the second half when Ivan Franjic knocked a ball across the face of goal with pace, but the Albanian striker couldn’t hit the target with his header.
Brisbane were handed the perfect opportunity to put themselves back in front when Thiago Calvano was adjudged to have pulled Hingert down in box.
The away side’s regular penalty taker was back in the line-up but Henrique’s shot was weak and Kennedy saved easily down to his left.
Newcastle continued to show they were dangerous on the break when Francis Jeffers found substitute Ryan Griffiths, but Theoklitos denied first Griffiths and then Jeffers to keep the scores level.
Brisbane finally took a chance presented to them after Erik Paartalu won a penalty which was expertly finished by Mitch Nichols.
The Jets refused to lie down and Michael Bridges laid a sublime ball around the Roar defence for Brockie headed towards goal, but he shanked his left foot shot well wide of Theoklitos’ goal.
However, Brisbane held strong to celebrate an important win.
Brisbane Roar Head Coach Ange Postecoglou said he was pleased with his side’s application throughout the match, despite the temptation to succumb to frustration given their inability to put the game to bed in the first half.
“The Jets had their moments at different times where they looked dangerous, so it was on a knife edge,” Postecoglou said.
“In the end I’m really proud of the player’s efforts.
“They kept pushing on and finally got that second goal.
“It was a big game for us today, to shore up second spot and we take it down to the last week (for the Premiers Plate).”
Newcastle Jets (Abbas 40’)
Brisbane Roar (Berisha 13’, Nichols 82’)
Venue: Ausgrid Stadium
Referees: Jarred Gillett
Newcastle Jets squad: 1. Ben Kennedy (gk), 4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 5. Tiago Calvano (25. Jacob Pepper 84'), 6. Ben Kantarovski, 8. Jeremy Brockie, 10. Ruben Zadkovich, 11. Tarek Elrich (23. Ryan Griffiths 57’), 12. Jobe Wheelhouse, 13. Sung-Hwan Byun, 22. Ali Abbas, 24. Francis Jeffers (9. Michael Bridges 76’)
Substitutes not used:, 19. Matthew Nash (gk)
Yellow cards: Byun (42’), Calvano (81’), Zadkovich (83’)
Red cards: Nil
Brisbane Roar Squad: 1. Michael Theoklitos (GK), 2. Matt Smith (C), 4. Matt Jurman, 5. Ivan Franjic, 6. Erik Paaratlu, 7. Besart Berisha, 10. Henrique (8. Massimo Murdocca 76’), 11. Issey Nakajima-Farran (21. James Meyer 70'), 17. Mitch Nichols, 19. Jack Hingert (12. Matt Mundy 68’), 22. Thomas Broich
Substitutes not used: 20. Andrew Redmayne (GK)
Yellow cards: Hingert (63’), Smith (77’)
Red cards:: Nil