Brisbane Roar show spirit in Mariners draw
Brisbane Roar put some overdue spark into their title defence before Central Coast marksman Daniel McBreen salvaged another dramatic 2-2 draw at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
The spirited Roar came from a goal down to lead 2-1 and were poised to inflict just the Mariners' third defeat when McBreen equalised in the 80th minute with his 14th goal of the season.
The scoreline was a repeat of the clubs' memorable 2010-11 grand final when Brisbane came from 2-0 down with two goals in the final three minutes of extra-time before winning on penalties.
The home side again looked like celebrating thanks to a stirring second-half performance against the pace-setting competition favourites.
Golden boot Besart Berisha rediscovered his mojo with a double and new Dutch recruit Stef Nijland made an immediate impact in a 30-minute cameo just 38 hours after flying into Brisbane.
Berisha, who has struggled for form in 2012-13 much like the defending champions, produced two quality goals to earn man-of-the-match honours.
The Albanian international headed home a smart cross from captain Thomas Broich in the 47th minute and then put the Roar in the lead by finishing the best goal of the entertaining encounter, sparked by pin-point passes from Nijland and Shane Stefanutto.
With young midfielder Luke Brattan continuing to shine, the Roar overcame an indisciplined and sloppy start with a confident display after the break to reinvigorate their campaign.
It had been a farcical start for seventh-placed Brisbane, who conceded the opening goal in the eighth minute due to a Matt Jurman defensive error when they were needlessly down to 10 men.
Replacement Ben Halloran, prevented from taking the field for an injured Massimo Murdocca due to an administrative error, was forced to watch from the sideline as Michael McGlinchey made the most of his gift opportunity in the box.
The Mariners looked in control of the first half and had missed a prime chance to double their lead just before the break when McBreen's close-range shot was smartly saved by Michael Theo.
Jurman was dragged at halftime and replaced by Jack Hingert in a backline reshuffle which saw Ivan Franjic team with Jade North in his Roar debut.
The Roar did have some luck with North escaping a red-card in the 14th minute after he pulled down a free-running McGlinchey with just Theo in front of him.
"On my view from where I was it was 100 per cent a send-off," said Central Coast coach Graham Arnold.
"Then it's a 1-0 game and 10 men and a team down on confidence and it's a different story.
"You get some good decisions and some bad decisions throughout the year and tonight we got a bad one but the most important thing for us is we got an important point away from home."
Arnold was more pained by another injury blow with midfielder Oliver Bozanic dislocating his shoulder in the second half and facing several weeks on the sidelines.
Roar coach Mike Mulvey, who described Jurman's early defensive error as "calamitous" and "awful", admitted he delivered a livid spray at halftime but was overjoyed by the second-half response.
"We were like strangers in the first half," Mulvey said.
"The second half was more an indication of how I want us to play and how I think we can play.
"If we can seize on the (quality of goals) we scored then there's a bright future."