Let the battle be­gin

No love lost when bit­ter ri­vals clash for A- League glory

Townsville Bulletin - - Bizfi Nd -

IF fa­mil­iar­ity breeds con­tempt, ex­pect a fiery A-League grand fi­nal at Sun­corp Sta­dium to­mor­row.

Re­mark­ably, the Bris­bane Roar take on Cen­tral Coast Mariners for the sixth time this sea­son – and the third oc­ca­sion in the fi­nals.

Per­haps the most fa­mil­iar as­pect has been on the score­board, with the Mariners un­able to beat the Roar once – though they are hardly alone there. Bris­bane have only suf­fered one de­feat on the way to the 2010-11 cham­pi­onship game – way back on Septem­ber 12 to Mel­bourne Vic­tory.

S i n c e t h e n c o a c h A n g e Postecoglou’s men have gone on a record 27-game un­beaten run to clinch the mi­nor pre­mier­ship with an eye-open­ing brand of skilled, at­tack­ing foot­ball that has been the talk of the league.

Not bad for a team that fin­ished sec­ond-last in 2009-10.

But the adage about fa­mil­iar­ity may yet ring true in the sea­son de­cider if the fi­nal min­utes of their last clash are any guide.

Play­ers had to be sep­a­rated in tu­mul­tuous scenes that fol­lowed their stun­ning 2-2 draw in the ma­jor semi-fi­nal sec­ond leg at Sun­corp Sta­dium on Fe­bru­ary 26.

First Roar play­ers took ex­cep­tion to Cen­tral Coast de­fender Pedj Bo­jic’s stop­page time chal­lenge on Brisb a n e ’ s c l a s s y G e r ma n i mp o r t Thomas Broich that earned a sec­ond yel­low card, and there­fore, a send-off.

But it didn’t end there – Roar striker James Meyer re­port­edly con­fronted Bo­jic post-match near the c hang­e­rooms, p r o mpt­ing i nt e r - ven­tion from se­cu­rity.

Cer­tainly the Mariners have done their darn­d­est to earn the Roar’s ire in the grand fi­nal count­down.

In­deed it was hard to tell who won last month’s ma­jor semi-fi­nal, judg­ing by the Mariners’ post-match com­ments.

Mo­ments af­ter be­ing beaten 4-2 on ag­gre­gate, Mariners men­tor Graham Arnold raised eye­brows when he claimed a ‘‘ psy­cho­log­i­cal win’’ from the sec­ond leg match.

Mariners skip­per Alex Wilkin­son also got in on the act.

‘‘ We take a lot of con­fi­dence out of that,’’ he said af­ter the 2-2 draw.

‘‘ Ev­ery time we play them we feel we can beat them. I just hope we get one more crack at them.’’

They will – much to the Roar’s rel­ish. Broich has taken aim at the Mariners’ post-match attitude in the grand fi­nal count­down.

‘ ‘ That ( Arnold com­ment)

was funny,’’ said Broich.

‘‘ If we get the cham­pi­onship, then they can still be psy­cho­log­i­cal cham­pi­ons – I don’t mind that.

‘‘ It’s all about the per­for­mance on the pitch. You can talk as much as you want. They haven’t beaten us once this year, so let them talk.’’

The Roar have ev­ery right to be con­fi­dent. Led by Soc­ceroos mid­fielder Matt McKay, Bris­bane have risen from the ashes of their worst sea­son fin­ish in 2009-10 to a level that ‘‘ be­longs in Europe’’ ac­cord­ing to Ade­laide United coach Rini Coolen.

McKay may be the leader but Broich has been the tal­is­man, set­ting up goal af­ter goal for the likes of reb o r n K i w i f o r w a r d K o s t a Bar­barouses. At the other end there is Goal­keeper of the Year Michael Theok­l­i­tos and a de­fen­sive line that p u n c h e s a b o v e i t s w e i g h t un­der­pinned by the un­her­alded Matt Smith and Mi­lan Susak.

The Roar have the wood on the Mariners this sea­son – three wins, in­clud­ing a 5-1 past­ing in Gos­ford on Novem­ber 28, as well as two draws.

But there is one area Cen­tral Coast wins hands down – grand fi­nal ex­pe­ri­ence. The Mariners are pre­par­ing for their third sea­son de­cider in six sea­sons.

ROAR cap­tain Matt McKay

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