Brisbane Roar hit stumbling block in ACL debut

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Brisbane Roar aim to make the Grand Final for the second consecutive year - can they win the A-League? (AAP Image/ Patrick Hamilton)

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In possibly the biggest anti-climax in football since Fernando Torres’ disastrous transfer to Chelsea, Brisbane Roar kicked off their Asian Champions League campaign in the worst way possible, failing to live up to the hype in a disappointing 0-2 loss to FC Tokyo in Brisbane overnight.

Playing on their home turf Brisbane entered the match as overwhelming favourites.

Excitement was in the air. Roar coach Ange Postecoglou spoke confidently of his aspirations to win the thing and dreamt of lining up against the top clubs in Europe.

People were salivating at the imperative question of the night – how would Brisbane Roar, widely regarded as the best ever A-League team, stack up against international competition? Betting markets gave them short odds of $1.60 while FC Tokyo were given little hope of victory at $5.50.

Then slowly but surely the reality check sunk in.

Each making their debut in the Asian Champions League, both teams took a while to warm up in the early stages with a handful of chances going either way.

The styles of play were similar but the execution from Tokyo was far superior than the efforts of the home team.

It was as the first half came to a close however, that FC Tokyo really came into their own and began to exploit Brisbane’s weak points in defence. A poor effort from the back four men in orange allowed a Tokunaga cross which was aptly put away by Yazawa in the final minute of injury time.

The Emperor’s Cup Champions then doubled their advantage through Hasegawa not long into the second half, leaving a mountain to climb for Brisbane to get back in it.

After the game, Postecoglou put the first half capitulation and overall performance down to nerves, proving that even for seasoned professional footballers, testing your skills against an international outfit can still be daunting.

“We’re obviously disappointed with the result. As expected it was a tough game,” he said.

“Our pressure wasn’t what it should be to be honest. We didn’t win the ball back pretty quickly as we do in the A-League.

“It’s challenging, but from a team point of view I think the experience will do us good.”

Brisbane never really played to their potential.

In defence there were many lapses, with towering fan-favourite Mohamed Adnan having a particularly difficult night.

In attack, the likes of Thomas Broich, Henrique and Besart Berisha were never afforded enough room to work some of their magic while facing the stealthy Tokyo backline.

There were long balls, something not seen very often from Brisbane in the A-League. The Roar appeared fragile and slow in possession, bumped off time and time again by the strong Tokyo men, who would then break away with incredible speed.

Brisbane played deep for long periods of the game, pressing too infrequently and unable to keep up with Tokyo’s quick tempo, which gave the visitors plenty of time on the ball in the attacking half.

Not that they needed it.

Their one touch passing through midfield was beautiful to watch and saw them toy with the Roar in a way we’re used to seeing Brisbane toy with other A-League teams.

Serbian FC Tokyo coach Ranko Popovic was beaming post-match at the display from his players.

“This game, we played very smart. I think we were one step ahead of Brisbane,” he said.

“Big respect to Brisbane, and I’m not someone to give out compliments for no reason.

“They are doing very well but I’m happy. Today we were a little bit better and we won the game.”

Whether you were one of the 12,037 ACL fans in wet conditions at Brisbane Stadium (Suncorp Stadium) or one of the many keen ACL followers watching from home, it’s hard not to feel a little deflated at the result.

FC Tokyo are a great side who were never worthy of playing in the second tier. They are rightly back in the top flight of Japanese football and showed all their class against Brisbane.

Despite little game time, they never looked flustered by the reigning A-League champions. Even without two key players they proved to be miles ahead of Brisbane at almost every stage of the match.

The best side won it; no-one can argue with that.

Still, even though Brisbane now sit at the bottom of Group F on goal difference following Ulsan Hyundai’s win in the other match, from all accounts Postecoglou and the team remain positive about their chances of advancing through to the knockout round.

However, you can’t help but think that if they play like they did tonight, it’s hard to see them getting very far.

It’s harsh, but true.

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