Let the battle begin
No love lost when bitter rivals clash for A- League glory
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