Analysis: Brisbane Roar just won’t be beaten

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An amazing game finished with Michael Theoklitos winning Brisbane the Hyundai A-League Grand Final with two superb saves after two goals in the last three minutes of extra time.

Both teams lined up as expected. A 4-3-3 for Brisbane with overlapping fullbacks (Ivan Franjic and Shane Steffanuto) and the holding midfielder (Erik Paartalu). Mariners with their narrow 4-4-2 diamond – Matt Simon, Mustafa Amini and Pedj Bojic in after not starting in the preliminary final against Gold Coast.

Both sides also played in their favoured styles. Brisbane looked to keep possession and play the game with the ball at their feet while the Mariners were happy to counter-attack and wait for Brisbane to bring the game to them. Brisbane played the better of the two sides with crisp and free-flowing attacks but the Mariners were extremely effective on the counter and had some golden chances.

Brisbane play further up the park

One notable change from previous matches against the Mariners was Brisbane spending less time passing the ball around the defence. The passing was always crisps and faultless, but previously the Mariners were happy to sit back and let Brisbane play in their own half allowing the Mariners time to catch their breath and re-structure.

As the match progressed and the Mariners would begin to tire, Brisbane would scored their goals.

This time however Brisbane spent less time passing the ball in defence. The Mariners still let them pass but they pressed when the Roar entered their half of the field. By pushing up and spending more time in that zone Brisbane were forcing Central Coast to do a lot more running. The idea was to tire the Mariners earlier in the match. But Brisbane’s lack of cutting edge in the final third prevented them from capitalising on that.

Broich more narrow as a result of no false nine and dangerous

Throughout the season Brisbane have usually played with a false-nine. This is when the lone striker – recently Jean Carlos Solorzano – drops deep into midfield to allow space for the deep runners. In the Grand Final, Solorzano didn’t drop back as much as he had done. As a result there was more space in the central zones.

Thomas Broich was the man who exploited this as he had less space on the flanks due to the Mariners fullbacks not getting forward as often in the first half. Broich was involved in almost every Brisbane attack and played some killer passes – only the defiant keeping of Matt Ryan kept Brisbane out.

It hasn’t been unusual for Broich to allow other players to dominate the central zones during the season but in this match he took initiative.

Amini important for Mariners

There were a few worries among Mariners fans – which were arguably warranted after failing to score in the first 90 minutes – with Patrico Perez out but Amini played the role of the Argentine well. Not only in attack, but also defence.

All of Mariners counters passed through Amini. His deep runs from behind Michael McGlinchey and Oliver Bozanic kept the Brisbane defence second guessing and when Amini did find space he looked dangerous dribbling. He lurked around the edge of the area when the Mariners had goal-scoring opportunities and he had a few chances when the ball fell to him. He was the base of the Mariners attacks in the first half as Paartalu uncharacteristically failed to nullify the threat of Amini. This was partly due to the holding player playing as deep as he has done this season – also a result of Amini.

In defence, Amini didn’t press Paartalu when he had the ball in his own half but when he ventured over the half-way line Amini would close him down and not allow him to play a deep play-maker role. As a result his passing range was shortened and it hindered Brisbane’s defence.

Second half changes

The second half was perhaps a more drab affair. With the rain bucketing down the tempo of the football slowed a bit and became a bit more lingering. The quality was still there though in comparison to the first half the match had slowed.

There were a few interesting substitutions, the most being Hutchinson on for Amini. Hutchinson played in the same attacking midfield role but slowed down any progression the Mariners were making. He lacked creativity and the Mariners play looked tired when he was at the center. He failed to recapture the importance Amini had. But perhaps it was the right move to take Amini off as Paaartalu had come back into the second half a much better defender and kept the young play-maker quiet.

The most game-changing subsitution was that of Bernie Ibini-Isei. The 18-year-old attacker came on for Griffiths – pushing Hutchinson deeper – and added a spark the game needed. His pace and flair troubled Brisbane’s defence and put them on the back foot.

Extra time

Central Coast opened the scoring off the back of a goal-line scramble and it shocked everyone at Suncorp.

Brisbane were forced to pour more men forward and push further up. The fullbacks had more of a license to get forward regardless of the situation – helped by a high defensive line. But it was these tactics that that ended up resulting in Central Coast’s second goal as Kwasnik beat the offside trap. There were only two defenders and they were very high, giving Kwasnik a lot of room.

Brisbane in turn tried to keep calm. Despite being 2-0 down with just a few minutes left they kept the ball on the deck. Their first goal resulted in the Mariners being caught on the counter – near criminal under the circumstances – with Henrique’s late run into the box allowing him to score. Brisbane’s composure in the final stages was superb as they tried to break down the Mariners.

Featured photo credit: Leanne Hughes

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