Brisbane Roar claim A-League title in nailbiter
Brisbane Roar have become the most successful club in A-League history by winning a third title in four years, shattering the hearts of the Western Sydney Wanderers after clinching an extra-time winner in another grand final that will be remembered as a classic.
There was a sense of history repeating as Brisbane went about making their own as they won yet another home decider in the most dramatic manner.
They were just five minutes away from facing defeat to a brave Western Sydney side before departing hero Besart Berisha drew them level and another grand final hero of the past, Henrique, clinched another title by scoring a 108th-minute winner.
The coveted A-League ring was all but packed up in the Wanderers' luggage before Berisha's header squared the ledger minutes from time, in turn sapping the Wanderers morale and energy as the game headed into extra time. Over the course of two hours of football, Western Sydney were courageous, fierce and well organised but ultimately undone by a club the most exquisite brand of football in the country.
They were yet again left wondering what might have been after losing a second successive A-League grand final, and the fortitude shown by the Wanderers compounded the agony of 10,000 travelling fans over another lost opportunity.
"I feel worse this year personally because I felt last year were just weren't good enough. We could accept that we weren't good enough on the day but I thought this year we were. I thought first half we totally dominated the game and right up until the goal," Wanderers coach Tony Popovic said.
"To put on such a great effort and performance and come up short, it certainly hurts more than last year."
Too often does cautious football prevail over attacking play in such momentous occasions but that wasn't the case for Western Sydney.
For the first quarter of the match, Brisbane couldn't get out of their own half due to the stifling pressure of the visitors.
Although their intense pressing alone was not going to be enough to undo a team with as much class as Brisbane, and only a long-range shot from Shinji Ono was the fruit of their labour.
They had to wait just 11 minutes after the restart to claim their deserved reward. Ono delivered a corner to the near post, and the towering Matthew Spiranovic guided the ball into the corner of the net with a glancing header.
Delirium swept through the away end of Suncorp Stadium as the Wanderers had one hand on the A-League trophy.
Just as red-and-black ribbons looked to have been tied around the golden toilet seat, captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley sacrificed himself for the sake of his team. Lungeing in to deny Berisha a chance on goal, the defender twisted his knee in the tackle and immediately called for help.
Berisha almost added insult to injury immediately after the reshuffle but his one-on-one attempt was spurned by a desparate dive from Spiranovic that deflected the shot narrowly wide.
Just as the A-League trophy looked destined to be placed around Tony Popovic's neck, Berisha finally delivered for one last time in front of his home fans. Latching on to a Broich free kick, the striker drew the Roar level with a deft header just five minutes from full-time.
So shattered were the Wanderers that Brisbane attacked them at will in extra time, and the inevitable happened. Henrique, who slotted the winning penalty in the 2010-11 grand final, broke free in the box and thumped the winner into the roof of the net. It was resilience embodied, a trait their coach says is deeply engrained within the club.
"If you believe, you can achieve. Never stop believing," Mike Mulvey said.
"This club, long before I arrived has in its DNA that we never give up."