Bandwagon getting lighter: Postecoglou

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Having been on cloud nine just a few weeks ago, the record-breaking Brisbane Roar were forced to endure booing from the fans as they headed into the sheds after a lacklustre first half in last night’s Hyundai A-League fixture.

Despite a late fight back in the second half led by a 78th minute goal from Mitch Nichols, a riotous onslaught from Melbourne Heart in the first forty-five was all it took to bring the defending champions to their knees in a 2-1 defeat.


It was unclear whether the reaction of the home crowd was directed at the Roar, the referees or the Heart players who were intent on wasting time in the final moments of the game, but the loss certainly didn’t please the fans. It highlighted just how high expectations have risen since Brisbane began their title defence.

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“I feel the bandwagon is getting lighter” Roar coach Postecoglou grumbled post-match.

“They’ll jump on as quickly as they jump off but it’s up to us to do what we do and get them back on board again.

“You’ve got to cop it on the chin and move on.”

In the first half it seemed as though teams had swapped shirts early, with Melbourne playing more like Brisbane than Brisbane. Putting pressure on the opposition they cut off passes to snatch possession and never really let the Roar get a sniff, while also forming a well executed attack that made the home team look downright ordinary.

After the match, the recently returned Olyroo Matt Jurman let slip that last week’s 2-0 loss against Sydney FC was still fresh in their memory, though Postecoglou didn’t want to admit that it had any impact on their approach to the game.

“The first half we weren’t as fluent as we usually are,” Postecoglou said.

“Whether it was a psychological thing, I don’t know. It shouldn’t have been because we trained well and felt good going into the game. If there are any issues there, we need to sort it out.”

The big surprise of the evening was the roughy Nick Fitzgerald who was promoted into the starting side ahead of the more fancied Kofi Danning. The youth team young-gun didn’t reach the heights of Thomas Broich in the same position but did enough to earn praise from the coach.

“It’s always hard when you play your first game but he had some bright spots, worked hard and I think he’ll be better for the run. He did his job today and he’s somebody who we think has a bit of potential,” Postecoglou said.

Playing without the speedy Henrique is one thing, but the massive loss of Broich is becoming more and more evident for Brisbane each week. They lacked the creativity, instinct and maturity which has become a key part of the their attacking arsenal. Possibly signalling another week without Broich, Postecoglou confirmed after the match that the same Brisbane squad would be playing against Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand.

Besart Berisha was left to take free kicks instead of being on the end of them, and when opportunities presented themselves such as Erik Paartalu’s misdirected free header in the dying minutes, one would think a cool head like Broich could well have been the difference.

One man who felt a little better knowing Broich was still absent was Heart goalkeeper Clint Bolton.

“He makes a difference, he’s a class act on his own,” he said.

Having never tasted success at Suncorp, Bolton was beaming with pride after the victory.

“They were really brave out there.

“I can’t really give enough credit to the ten, twelve, thirteen boys in front of me. They did a great job. I had a very quiet night compared to last time I was here, so I was very happy with that.”

It was a night to remember for Melbourne. Sydney might have taken honours in ending Brisbane’s 36-game undefeated streak in the previous round, but Heart were the one’s responsible for undoing the Roar’s 21-match undefeated record at home.

They didn’t come to Brisbane for anything less than the win, but Bolton did have doubts over what type of Brisbane team they would face.

“We weren’t sure what to expect from them after last week. Whether we’d get them on the rebound, or fired up, or if Sydney had softened them up enough and maybe put a few question marks in their own minds, possibly for us to exploit,” he said.

Exploit it is what they did. Sticking to their game plan Heart coach John van ’t Schip was pleased with the win but refused to get as carried away as Jonatan Germano did after scoring in the 12th minute.

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“I didn’t control the pants,” he said, referring to the concealed Santa hat which was whipped out in a goal celebration by the lively Argentinean.

“I didn’t have a look inside. I didn’t know where it came from!”

While the Roar remain in top spot and van ’t Schip’s men move into third on the Hyundai A-League ladder, the Dutch coach doesn’t want his team getting a big head with two-thirds of the season still left to play.

“There’s no reason to start celebrating,” he said.

“We have to be sharp, we have to be humble, we have to work hard on the training pitch and keep on doing the things we believe in.

“Brisbane is the best team at the moment. That we won this evening doesn’t mean that they’re not good anymore.

“You have to be a team and try and get better every day and I think that’s something we have to keep in mind.”

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