Long road ahead for Brisbane Roar in the ACL

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Credit: Brisbane Roar

Brisbane Roar once again fell short of recording their first win in their Asian Champions League campaign, conceding a penalty in the second half to give Korean outfit Ulsan Hyundai the 2-1 victory.

Despite the loss, don’t think for a moment that the Roar will be worried or fear their imminent elimination from the ACL. On the contrary. After the game Brisbane coach Ange Postecoglou echoed feelings of pride in his team.

“I know the players are disappointed, but I’m not. I’d be much more disappointed if we went out there and sat back and didn’t create any opportunities or relied on the set piece or on the break,” Postecoglou said.

“We know where we’re at and we wanted to play this tournament in a certain kind of way and I think we have in the last three games. You know we’re not quite there in terms of real quality.

“There’s no shame in saying that. That’s where we want to be and that’s how we want to improve.”

In what will be positive news to Brisbane Roar fans, Postecoglou also scoffed at suggestions that the loss would have adverse affects on the mindset of his players ahead of the Hyundai A-League Grand Final in less than five days.

“Will that [loss against Ulsan] affect them on Sunday? Not in the slightest.”

There was evidence that Brisbane had one eye on the Grand Final, subbing out poaching striker Besart Berisha early into the second half as well as Henrique, Nichols and Murdocca.

In front of a small, but passionately loud 7015-strong Brisbane crowd the home fans weren’t treated to a confident start. It was a different Ulsan Hyundai that faced Brisbane to the one they played two weeks ago. They pressed hard and just like they have against other Asian teams in Group F the Roar looked uncomfortable.

Not helped by a worn and slow pitch, Mitch Nichols was having a particularly disappointing evening. Off a pass forward from Mohamed Adnan, Nichols was ambushed by two Ulsan defenders who managed to dispossess the midfielder.

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Colombian Juan Estiven Velez then made a glorious strike while off balance to launch the ball into the net, easily beating a humbled Michael Theoklitos.

Shane Stefanutto was the unlikely goal scorer of the equaliser in the 25th minute with an attempted cross bamboozling the Ulsan ‘keeper Seunggyu to find the bottom left corner of the net.

It was the defender’s first goal in Brisbane Roar colours and remarkably just his third ever career goal.

When the two teams returned to the pitch after the break, the animosity grew as each side fought hard for that all important winner.

For all money Brisbane looked most likely to score. Launching wave upon wave of attack, a goal was surely on the cards. Luke Brattan released a cracking long range effort which rattled the cross bar and drew “Oooohs” from the rowdy home crowd. The deflection however helped the ball up the opposite end of the field where Ulsan’s pacey forwards exploited the counter, and deep in Roar territory drew the penalty off a clumsy challenge from Mohamed Adnan.

Korean captain Taewhi sent Theoklitos the wrong way and within a minute, the game swayed heavily in Ulsan’s favour.

Brisbane tried desperately to claw back another equaliser but to no avail.

Sitting in third position in Group F and 6 points behind the leaders FC Tokyo and Ulsan, though theoretically possible, it’s safe to rule out the Roar as a title contender for this year’s ACL title. However Postecoglou remained upbeat about their upcoming encounters in the tournament.

“The next two games is a real good opportunity for us to take it up another level because we won’t be playing in the A-League,” he said.

“The players will be rested, there’s two weeks between games so we can really prepare for them. We’ll certainly use those games to further develop ourselves as a team and we certainly want to get some wins.

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Ulsan head coach Kim Ho Kon admitted his team were “lucky” to have scored two goals. For the former Korean international footballer, the performance was nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, Kon said he sees a very bright future for Brisbane Roar and other A-League teams in the ACL and beyond, signalling that success is not far away.

“In my playing days I played Australia many times in World Cup qualifying events. Previously Australia was relying on long kicks but this time I was impressed with their short passing game,” he said.

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“Obviously Australia are very strong in football in Asia and I believes Australia will lead the Asian region in the future.”

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