Brisbane stun Wellington in seven-goal thriller

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 12 – 2016/2017 – Round 27 (season end)
5pm, Sunday 16 April, 2017 – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Brisbane Roar FC  4 (Holman 21′, 67′, Borello 51′, Maclaren 53′)
Wellington Phoenix FC 3 (Krishna 6′, Finkler 38′, McGlinchey 41′)

Brisbane Roar scored a stunning come-from-behind 4-3 victory over Wellington Phoenix at Suncorp Stadium on Easter Sunday to clinch a third-placed finish in the Hyundai A-League and, with it, qualification for the 2018 AFC Champions League.

At the same time, it brought the curtain down on Wellington’s season in rather fitting fashion, with the visitors squandering a 3-1 half-time lead to end up missing out on the play-off spots by six points.

The 12,098 fans present were treated to a rip-roaring first forty-five minutes of football which was laden with chances at both ends of the park, the first of them materialising just three minutes into the contest.

Brandon Borrello – outstanding throughout – headed the ball through for Jamie Maclaren, who needed two goals in this match to claim the Golden Boot outright. He streaked past makeshift central defender Vince Lia – standing in for Andrew Durante – in the inside left channel, but shot tamely at Lewis Italiano.

Wellington’s response to this threat was to take the lead in the sixth minute. Guilherme Finkler played a ball in behind the Brisbane defence which Roy Krishna latched onto, outpacing Cameron Crestani before drilling the ball inside Michael Theo’s right hand post.

Buoyed by the goal, the visitors dominated proceedings for the next ten minutes or so, and came close to doubling their advantage twice in that time. Just two minutes after scoring, Finkler delivered a corner which Costa Barbarouses headed across to Roly Bonevacia.

His header forward picked out Michael McGlinchey, whose ambitious lob was hooked off the line by Borrello. But if you thought that was close, “Wee Mac”’s next effort, five minutes later, was a wee bit special, and deserved better fate.

A brilliant move began on the right with Finkler and Bonevacia, who linked with Barbarouses. His lay-off invited McGlinchey to flick the ball up in the air and unleash a thunderous twenty yard volley which screamed past the stunned figure of Theo, only to cannon back into play off the crossbar – easily one of Wellington’s best attacks of the season, if not their first decade of operation.

Back came Brisbane, with the imperious Thomas Broich picking out Brett Holman with a lovely pass on the quarter hour. He threaded the ball through the defence for Borrello, darting in behind, and he steered the ball past the advancing figure of Italiano, only for Lia to scoop clear under the shadows of the crossbar.

From the resulting Broich corner, Avram Papadopoulos directed his header straight at Italiano, whose opposite number, Theo, was in action two minutes later, brilliantly turning Bonevacia’s twenty yard thunderbolt round the post after Krishna and McGlinchey’s superb combination work in the build-up.

Barbarouses then battered a twenty-five yarder past the Brisbane custodian’s uprights, to which the home team responded with a stunning equaliser in the 21st minute, Holman setting off on a run from half-way before unleashing a twenty-five yard missile which fair exploded in the back of Italiano’s net – there was no stopping this one! A terrific strike!

Now it was the home team on the front foot after the boost of a goal. Broich sent Maclaren dashing through the inside left channel, only for the striker to direct his shot across Italiano but inches past the far post as well.

Wellington’s ‘keeper then made a trio of saves in as many minutes to prevent Brisbane from taking the lead before the half-hour mark. He firstly parried Thomas Kristensen’s volley to safety – Broich just failed to connect with the rebound – before tipping a Borrello drive over the bar, after Broich and Holman had combined to set up the striker.

Borrello then turned provider, picking out Holman with a cross which the former Socceroo met with a superb flying header, only for Italiano to keep him at bay with a solid save.

There was a brief respite after that breathtaking half-hour of attacking enterprise, but Wellington soon picked up the tempo again, and in the 37th minute went close through Krishna, who sent a shot flying past the near post under pressure from Theo after expertly beating two opponents before working a splendid one-two with Finkler, the return pass taking out three defenders to send the Fijian into the area on the left.

The visitors had but sixty seconds to wait to regain the lead. Thomas Doyle teamed up with Krishna, whose lay-off invited McGlinchey to drive to the by-line, drawing two defenders towards him in the process, before delivering a low cross into the goalmouth.

Striding onto the sphere was Finkler, who slammed the ball home from ten yards to restore Wellington’s lead, which they extended to 3-1 just three minutes later, following another fine move on the right.

The usual suspects were at its heart, Barbarouses, Bonevacia and Finkler combining before the last-mentioned received a pass from Ryan Lowry and hoisted an angled cross into ‘no man’s land’, that area in between defenders and goalkeeper which invariably causes problems for those tasked with clearing the danger.

It did on this occasion, Crestani’s attempt to hook clear succeeding only in guiding the dropping ball into the stride of McGlinchey, who coolly despatched it beyond Theo with the minimum of fuss, but with joy aplenty – 3-1 Wellington, a scoreline few would have envisaged would even be a possibility going into this match.

Before the interval, the home team strove to reduce the deficit. Broich’s 43rd minute corner wasn’t cleared, inviting Borrello to launch into a scissors kick which sent the ball crashing into the stanchion from six yards.

Then Maclaren failed to capitalise on hesitant Wellington defending, shooting wide to bring an enthralling half to a close, with the promise of more of the same in the second spell.

Sure enough, that’s what we got, with Brisbane requiring just eight minutes of the half to draw level. Their second goal of the contest materialised in the 51st minute, and saw Broich pick out Borrello on the right, from where he curled an unerring twenty yarder around Italiano and into the bottom far corner of the net.

3-2 became 3-3 just two minutes later. Again, the German maestro was at the heart of the move, Broich once more linking with Borrello, whose shot on the turn was blocked, fortuitously for Brisbane, by Maclaren.

The rebound went straight to Broich, who fed the overlapping Tommy Oar, whose low cross was gleefully slammed home at the near post by Maclaren – his fiftieth A-League goal, and a strike which assured him of at least a share of the Golden Boot.

Within three minutes, the home team came desperately close to taking the lead for the first time in the contest. Oar over-hit a cross, which Borrello gathered on the right before back-heeling to Holman, whose teasing cross-shot drifted just past Italiano’s right-hand upright.

Cue drama at the other end of the park, as Wellington penalty appeals were ignored by referee Kris Griffiths-Jones after Crestani felled Doyle as the fullback carved his way into the area off the left flank.

While they were protesting, Brisbane surged downfield, Borrello picking out Holman with a pass which invited the midfielder to let fly. He did so, narrowly past the near post, with the better-placed figure of Maclaren screaming for a cutback across goal in the 59th minute.

Two minutes later, Krishna shot straight at Theo after Alex Rodriguez and McGlinchey had combined to good effect, but Brisbane kept on coming. Marco Rossi cut out a cross intended for Maclaren after Crestani and Borrello had linked on the right, while the same source looked to link with the same outlet again in the 63rd minute, only for Lia to intervene this time round.

After Krishna had fired a shot on the turn across the face of goal, after slick build-up play featuring Bonevacia and Barbarouses, both the latter and Finkler had shots blocked by Papadopoulos within seconds of each other in the 66th minute, as Wellington looked to regain the lead.

Instead, just sixty seconds later, they found themselves trailing for the first time in this quite remarkable match. Oar and Borrello combined on the left to pick out Holman, whose perfectly struck twenty-yarder arrowed mere inches above the surface into Italiano’s bottom right-hand corner, the ‘keeper rooted to the spot, seemingly in admiration of this technically perfect goal.

The goal stunned Wellington, and Brisbane moved in for the kill. After Borrello had rattled the side-netting, Holman threaded a ball through for Maclaren, who was felled by a tackle from behind by Lia in the penalty area.

Referee Griffiths-Jones had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, so fifteen minutes from time, Maclaren had the chance to claim the Golden Boot. Incredibly, he spurned the chance, Italiano diving to his left to save the spot-kick and give his team a boost which they looked to turn into a late equaliser.

Barbarouses wasn’t far away with a twenty yarder after Papadopoulos had seemingly headed Doyle’s cross to safety, before Hamish Watson, a recent introduction off the substitute’s bench, was taken out by Theo as he looked to latch onto Lowry’s ball over the top.

The striker had been offside when the ball was played, but neither he nor the ‘keeper were aware the flag was raised when they tangled awkwardly, Watson ultimately unable to continue in what may well have been his final game for the club, given he is one of several Wellington players whose contracts expire at the end of the season.

Watson’s replacement, Adam Parkhouse, featured in the final attack of the contest. Rodriguez won the ball in midfield for McGlinchey’s benefit, and he linked with the newcomer, whose first-time cross found Barbarouses flying in to direct a header goalwards.

Theo grabbed his effort to ensure that Brisbane would head into the A-League quarter-finals buoyed by this stirring, come-from-behind 4-3 victory over a Wellington Phoenix side which has much work to do before kicking an A-League ball in anger again, the appointment of a new coach – or retention of incumbents Des Cunningham and Chris Greenacre – high on the agenda.

Match details

Crowd:  12,098

Brisbane Roar FC:   Theo (gk); Crestani (booked, 40) (Ingham, 88), Devere, Papadopoulos, Oar (Rowles, 86); Kristensen, Holman (Pepper, 86), Caletti; Borrello, Maclaren, Broich
Coach:  John Aloisi

Wellington Phoenix FC:   Italiano (gk); Lowry, Lia (booked, 75), Rossi, Doyle; Bonevacia (booked, 36), Rodriguez, Finkler (Watson, 78 (Parkhouse, 86)); Barbarouses, Krishna, McGlinchey
Coach:  Des Buckingham

Points and ratings

Match:     9/10
Pitch:     4/10

Referee:  Kris Griffiths-Jones  4/10

Player points:
3.  Borrello
2.  Broich
1.  McGlinchey