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The electric atmosphere at Suncorp Stadium for the A- League decider. The electric atmosphere at Suncorp Stadium for the A- League decider. Featured
05 May 2014 Posted by 

WANDERERS LOSE A-LEAGUE FINAL

Team regroups for Asian Champions League bid

By Angelo Risso

BRISBANE Roar have won a record third A-League title after breaking Western Sydney Wanderers' hearts with an extra time winner in front of a packed Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.

Brazilian winger Henrique's goal on 108 minutes was enough to decide the clash between the A-League's top two teams, after a pulsating 90 minutes ended equal at 1-1.

For the Wanderers - runners up two seasons running - it'll be another opportunity to reflect on what might have been, as they seek to forget their A-League woes by flying to Japan for their Asian Champions League Round of 16 match with Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

In what is uncannily the third time, Brisbane has snatched grand final victory from the jaws of defeat; departing Brisbane forward Besart Berisha's 86th minute leveler cancelled out Matthew Spiranovic's 56th minute header just in time.

In three grand finals in four years, Brisbane has been unable to score before the 85th minute - and yet gone on to win all three contests.

Like Central Coast Mariners and Perth Glory before them, the Wanderers can count themselves more than a little unlucky.

Lining up exactly as they did when defeating Central Coast Mariners last Saturday - including, surprisingly, a semi-fit Mark Bridge - the Wanderers could have done little more to help balance the scales in their favour.

With 10,000 Wanderers fans flooding north into the River City for the match, the atmosphere at Suncorp was one for the ages. Both groups of supporters were in full voice. It was the Wanderers fans, however, who would've been more pleased with the opening minutes.

Flying out of the blocks, Western Sydney hustled and harried their esteemed opponents, pinning them back into their own half without creating any chances of note.

It was clear that both teams were well-drilled, giving away nothing to each other in an often tense opening period.

As the first half wore on however Brisbane rediscovered their touch, and the type of football that has won them both the Premiers Plate and universal acclaim this season.

With the exception of Ivan Franjic's cross-come-shot that struck the woodwork the Roar were unable to capitalise on their late-half dominance, and the teams went into the break on level terms.

It was the Wanderers that were to light the blue touch paper in the second half.

An out-swinging corner from marquee Shinji Ono found the head of Spiranovic at the near post, and the Australian international slotted into the top corner.

Pressed into action, Brisbane coach Mike Mulvey threw on diminutive Brazilian Henrique in place of Dimi Petratos as his players laid siege on the Wanderers back line.

Then the moment that changed the game. Wanderers captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley, until then ably containing a wolfish Berisha, slid in to halt the Albanian forward and in the process injured his knee.

Forced into a tactical reshuffle - moving standout performer Iacopo La Rocca from midfield to defence - Tony Popovic's men immediately fell onto the back foot, with the Roar attacking at whim through the centre of the park.

And when a football club can call on the services on players like these, it was always going to be a matter of time. With the A-League trophy almost in the bag for the red and blacks, a looping Thomas Broich free kick found the head of Besart Berisha, and the future Melbourne Victory player made no mistake.

Extra time beckoned for the 51,153 fans, but it was obvious that the Wanderers - out on their feet after the shock of a late equaliser - would struggle to hold on.

Only minutes after Labinot Haliti hit a one-on-one opportunity straight at Roar goalkeeper Michael Theo, Brisbane substitute James Donachie sent a low cross into the path of Henrique, who slammed the ball into the roof of the net to crown a fantastic season for Brisbane in which they swept aside all before them.

 



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