Brisbane Roar have progressed to the Australia Cup Round of 32 with a 3-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers at an atmospheric Wanderers Football Park.
The Roar started the brighter of the two sides, fashioning a few half-chances early on in the contest.
Jay O’Shea and Connor Chapman were doing a good job in the centre of the park, the two pivots getting on the ball and distributing well.
It was the home side who struck first against the run of play, however, with Remy Najjarine’s free-kick from the edge of the area nodded home by fellow Wanderers young gun Jarrod Carluccio.
From there, Western Sydney started to gain the ascendency and pushed for a second before halftime, including two strikes that were cleared off the line in a frantic 28th-minute scramble in the Brisbane penalty area.
Western Sydney started to really put their stamp on the game, with their midfield controlling possession and starting plenty of attacking forays.
Roar struggled to keep possession, and were camped in their own end for a significant portion of the opening half.
A continuing theme from their A-League Men campaign was the lack of attacking potency for Brisbane, who only managed 29 goals throughout the season.
It remained 1-0 to the home side when the players headed to the sheds for some halftime instructions from Mark Rudan and Warren Moon.
Roar got off to the perfect start to the second stanza, with substitute Cyrus Dehmie equalising in the 52nd minute from a corner-kick.
The game was beginning to turn, with Brisbane starting to exert their control over the contest.
Just six minutes after the equalising goal, the visitors hit the lead thanks to a strike from the edge of the box from Luke Ivanovic.
It appeared that Tomas Mejias was perhaps unsighted but the goalkeeper would probably like another chance at that one.
James Troisi then went close for Western Sydney with a powerful hit that flashed wide.
There was more pain on the way for the home side, however, with Ivanovic grabbing his second of the night, making Moon look like the Australian Pep Guardiola.
The Wanderers’ defence was split open and Ivanovic had a clear path to goal with only Ziggy Gordon back, and the 21-year-old cooly slotted past Mejias.
Wanderers pressed for the required goals to get back into the contest but ultimately came up short.
It finished 3-1 to Brisbane Roar at Wanderers Football Park.
Plenty of questions for the home side, but not many answers at the moment.
Roar’s attack finally fires
Goal scoring was a huge issue for Brisbane in the recently completed A-League Men campaign – they only managed a paltry 29 goals scored from 26 matches.
It was looking shaky in the first half for the Roar attack but it really clicked into gear in the second half, the visitors first levelling the Australia Cup Playoff, then hitting the lead in the space of just six second-half minutes, and sealing the sudden-death tie in the 75th minute.
Moon deserves credit for his halftime substitutions, with all three goals coming from the bench through Dehmie and Ivanovic with a double.
Looking ahead to the 2022-23 A-League men campaign, the big question for Brisbane Roar does remain: where are the goals going to come from on a regular basis? There are some positive signs starting to emerge, however.
Another early Cup exit for Western Sydney
It’s another early exit from the Australia Cup for the Wanderers following their memorable 2021 defeat at the hands of spirited part-timers APIA Leichhardt in the Round of 16 affair at Leichhardt Oval.
Not counting that match, the Wanderers had progressed to at least the quarter-final stage of the Cup in every edition since 2015.
The relative success in the knockout competition had provided a bright spot in an otherwise dark time in the club’s history, having failed to qualify for the A-League Men finals series since 2016-17 when they were eliminated by Brisbane in Week 1.
But this was another unfortunate night for one of the league’s biggest sides and their supporters. Those passionate fans who still remain will be hoping for much more once the 2022-23 A-League season rolls around – another season of futility will surely not be acceptable for Mark Rudan and Western Sydney.
Magic of the Cup
There was plenty of magic of the cup at Wanderers Football Park on the night. It’s unlikely CommBank Stadium was ever an option for the hastily planned fixture, but either way, this was the right venue for the game.
The Australia Cup, formerly known as the FFA Cup of course, has always been about the community spirit of football and that spirit was on show throughout the venue, with the kids on the pitch pre-game, the smell of authentic food cooking on the BBQ and the intimate feel of the ground.
After the Roar’s move to Moreton Daily Stadium in recent times, downsizing may be a trend other A-League Men clubs would be clever to follow, with the sights and sounds of a capacity crowd always preferable to small patches of fans in a cavernous, soulless high-capacity stadium that fans can’t really identify with.
Australia Cup Play-Offs
Brisbane Roar 3 (Dehmie 52m, Ivanovic 58m, 75m)
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Carluccio 8m)