Wanderers claw game from toothless Roar

Wanderers fans
Wanderers fans

GIVEN the status quo of the Brisbane Roar, this could only be classed as an improvement. But as the unshakeable confidence and slick football that defined their years of dominance continues to evaporate, near enough is no longer good enough.

The Western Sydney Wanderers have achieved any number of firsts in their rookie A-League season, some by default, some by design.

The latest came on a hot and oppressively humid afternoon at Suncorp Stadium, where they rallied in the second half for a thrilling 2-1 victory. The air rushing out of a rapidly deflating stadium was about the only breeze in town.

It was the first time the new club had overcome a deficit to win. Five times they had fallen behind in games and five times they had lost.

That they put an end to that run against the twice defending champions was a poignant moment in which one side displayed its surprise title credentials and the other continued a paralysing slide from grace.

Brisbane, second-last on the ladder, desperately needed a result at home to make a run at the finals. Coaching changes, player departures and internal disquiet in the post-Postecoglou apocalypse have turned a fabled swagger into a ginger limp.

Post-season football without Brisbane hasn't seemed possible in the past two seasons but this year it's the Wanderers that have a buzz about them heading towards the home turn.

The match wasn't without its controversy but the Roar weren't going to use an offside ruling on Youssouf Hersi's winning goal (70th minute) as an excuse. They know as well as anyone the problems at the club run deeper than any individual ruling.

Even so, it was a pivotal moment in the match and, potentially, the season. Shinji Ono was clearly offside as Hersi skipped clear but he was ruled to be divorced enough from play to let the goal stand.

Roar coach Mike Mulvey wasn't thrilled with the ruling but admitted his defenders switched off and wished for a flag. ''I am not going to make any excuses with regards to referees; they have a job to do,'' Mulvey said. ''Maybe it was or maybe it wasn't.

''The thing that mustn't happen is that we stop defending it and that's what we did. That's the criminal offence that we committed and that cost us the game.''

Mulvey has won just two games from his six since he took over from Rado Vidosic, a long-time assistant to Ange Postecoglou, who was shuffled sideways after 11 games in his first head coaching role.

There's little guarantee of Mulvey's job either, even if the Roar showed some fire in the first half to take a 1-0 lead at the break, courtesy of a Mitch Nichols goal in the 23rd minute. The Wanderers were flat and seemingly battling to compete in the difficult conditions.

Coach Tony Popovic gave them new life in the second half and two goals in four minutes were enough to bury the Roar. Mark Bridge caught the static Brisbane defence napping and keeper Michael Theo on his line in the 66th minute.

Four minutes later, Hersi galloped up the park to smash home the winner, giving the Wanderers a perfect three-from-three record against the Roar this season and keeping them safely in the top four.

Popovic is hearing not only talk of finals but of silverware, topics he may not have thought would be up for discussion, given the infancy of his club.

There's more bad news for the Roar. Besart Berisha and Shane Stefanutto were given yellow cards amid a heated ending and will miss the away match against Perth next week. A loss there would almost be enough to end their campaign.


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