Playmaker Thomas Broich warned Brisbane Roar were back in the midst of another breathtaking run after delivering a 2-0 blow to Central Coast’s hopes of hosting the A-League grand final.
The German maestro hit all the right notes in Saturday night’s first leg of the major semi-final to have the Roar eying a second straight title decider at Suncorp Stadium on April 22.
A win, draw or one-goal loss next Sunday in Gosford will mean the reigning champions host the grand final on April 22.
Brisbane largely dominated the minor premiers for their seventh win in a nine-match unbeaten streak – four months after the national record 36-match run.
Broich showed his class by mesmerising three defenders in setting up a crucial second goal to Erik Paartalu in the 86th minute, as a blazing strike made amends for a litany of missed chances.
With the Roar travelling to South Korea to play Ulsan Hyundai in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday night, before a return match against the Mariners in Gosford on Sunday, Paartalu’s goal was hugely important in the scheme of the home-and-away tie.
“We have a big trip and to go into a second semi-final 2-0 that helps big time,” Broich said.
“We created so many chances and 1-0 is still a good result but that doesn’t reflect the true story of the game.
“It will be tough (with the travel) but I think we’re on a good run again. We’ve played some good football and we’re creating many chances in every game.”
Brisbane led from the eighth minute when Henrique atoned for a failed penalty attempt 60 seconds earlier by slotting home a Matt Smith header from a Broich corner.
The Brazilian’s penalty was saved brilliantly by Matt Ryan, who came to Central Coast’s rescue throughout the first half.
The Mariners had the better of the resumption and Tomas Rogic should have equalised from Pedj Bojic just after the break but Michael Theoklitos produced a reflex save.
Broich, hampered by shoulder and heel problems in recent weeks, came into his own in the final 20 minutes to put his mark on the match.
Roar coach Ange Postecoglou said a 1-0 result would have been an injustice to his side’s dominance, but Mariners counterpart Graham Arnold rued Rogic’s missed chance and was adamant his side’s grand final hosting hopes were still alive.
“I thought it was a great game of football, overall both teams played well,” he said.
Brisbane’s Bahraini defender Mohamed Adnan bravely completely the match despite being troubled by a knee injury which saw Matt Jurman warm-up at halftime.
Henrique finished with a hamstring concern that saw him replaced after an hour, and leaves him in doubt for Wednesday night’s ACL clash.