Brisbane Roar’s ACL campaign is in tatters
Brisbane Roar's Henrique celebrates his goal against the Central Coast Mariners during the second leg of the major semi-final in Gosford on Sunday, April 8, 2012. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
Glory in the AFC Asian Champion’s League is now no more than a pipe dream for Brisbane Roar, having lost 1-2 to Ulsan Hyundai in Queensland overnight.
With Brisbane Roar, whose logo is a lion, taking on Ulsan Hyundai whose mascot is the horangi (or tiger) the encounter was a deadest cat fight, and it proved to be just as feisty and intense.
It was a sluggish start from Brisbane. On a slow and rugged pitch that saw the ball bobble and bounce unpredictably, the Roar’s style of play was tested very early and it took a while before they clicked into gear. However it wasn’t until the 11th minute, the time of Ulsan’s first goal, that this occurred.
Under attack from two Ulsan players, in what was a far too frequent scene on the night, Mitch Nichols coughed up the ball in his own half, which allowed Colombian Juan Estiven Velez to score an unbelievable goal from well outside the area.
The Hyundai A-League grand finalists were no doubt rattled by the goal, but from there looked far more determined despite relentless pressure from a much improved Korean outfit.
Brisbane persisted and the home side were rewarded for their urgency fifteen minutes later, albeit from a most unlikely candidate.
Former Fury player and current Roar left back Shane Stefanutto scored his very first goal in orange colours, and just his third for his career, with an attempted cross that had enough side spin to sneak into the net, much to the surprise of goalkeeper Seunggyu and even Stefanutto himself.
After the break, with the scores level and the game there for the taking, both teams were showing their intent to win stepping it up a notch to produce highly entertaining, end-to-end football.
Tensions on the pitch increased, with Ivan Franjic and Besart Berisha in particular growing increasingly frustrated with Ulsan players diving, feigning injury and wasting time. Berisha even earnt a yellow card before time-on in the second half for mouthing off at his opponents huddling before kick-off.
At one point, while referee Torki Mohsen checked an Ulsan player with cramp, behind the Iranian’s back a push and shove erupted between opposing players, with the Bahraini international Adnan stepping in to prevent the situation from escalating.
Unfortunately Adnan would leave an undesirable mark on the game, not from a brilliant free kick or leaping header, but for a clumsy challenge in the box that gave Ulsan the golden opportunity to take the lead from the spot kick.
Captain Taewhi stepped up and converted the penalty with ease, sending Michael Theoklitos the wrong way in the 73rd minute to give the Koreans a 2-1 lead, and ultimately, victory.
There was a flurry of opportunities for Brisbane in the final ten minutes but the Roar just couldn’t find another equaliser; once again in the ACL falling disappointingly short in a game they could well have won.
Within Group F, Ulsan Hyundai and FC Tokyo are now far ahead on eight points, while Brisbane Roar sit just above Beijing Guoan on goal difference with each having just two points.
Only two matches are left to be played by each team in the group stage. Brisbane will next face FC Tokyo in Japan on May 2 and Beijing in China on May 16.
Though it is still mathematically possible for Brisbane to make the top two, it is very unlikely they will be able to make up the point and goal deficit.
It may be a deflating result, but rest assured, as Roar coach Ange Postecoglou confirmed post-match, last night was no stumbling block on the road to Sunday’s Hyundai A-League grand final.