A couple of intriguing A-League clashes turned into markedly different contests on Sunday, even if the two contrasting results will have left Marco Kurz and Robbie Fowler sweating.
Roy O’Donovan’s last gasp equalizer earnt Robbie Fowler a point on his maiden A-League outing as Brisbane Roar boss.
After O’Donovan saw his close-range header initially ruled out for offside, the decision was overturned by VAR, after what seemed an eternity to wait.
Confirmation of the goal sparked joyous scenes from the Roar dugout after it appeared they would be making the long trip back to the east coast empty-handed.
It was a much-improved second-half showing from Fowler’s men, with nine debutants in the starting eleven. They had fallen behind to last seasons minor premiers after Chris Ikonomidis had given Perth a deserved lead in the 34th minute.
The Roar started sluggishly with the Glory dominating most of the early exchanges. Diego Castro’s class was on show for all to see and it was his pass that set up Ikonomidis to fire past keeper Max Crocombe.
Although the assist was weighted beautifully, Fowler would not have been happy with the space offered to the youngster. The Roar, as they had been in pre-season, started the game with a back three, but Ikonomidis exploited the large gap between centre half Macaulay Gillesphey and wing-back Connor O’Toole to effect.
Brisbane did have some moments going forward in the opening 45 minutes with Jay O’Shea offering guile with some well taken set pieces, but Perth were well worth their lead at the end of the first half.
The Roar came out in the second 45 with far more intent and midfielder Stefan Mauk was foiled by the legs of Perth gloveman Liam Reddy on 55 minutes.
Brisbane’s back three led by skipper Tom Aldred, did start to look more assured as the game wore on, with Crocombe not required to make a save of any note. Aldred is a ‘no-nonsense’ type of defender and would seem to be the solution to solving the Roars defensive woes from last season.
But it was Aaron Amadi-Holloway who really caught the eye with a ten-minute cameo from the substitutes bench. It was his nod down from a perfectly flighted O’Shea cross that set up O’Donovan’s goal. The Welshman had picked up an injury soon into his arrival at Brisbane which has disrupted his pre-season and restricted him to a place on the bench.
Fowler has previously described the former Shrewsbury forward as a ‘beast’ when in full flow, and straight away he offered a physical presence upfront which had been lacking. He will surely come into the reckoning for the Roars next game at home to Melbourne Victory on Friday, October 25.
With an odd number of teams in this A-League season, it is the Roar who will be sitting out next weeks Round 2 fixtures. This may prove to be a blessing for Fowler, giving he and his assistant Tony Grant more minutes on the training ground to work with and continue to gel their new charges.
Most Roar fans would surely have taken a point before the game and will be happy with the steel and determination that was on show, a stark contrast to last year.
The opening A-League round has proven to be as tight as what many commentators had predicted beforehand. With seemingly little between most teams, a place in the top six is a real possibility. Roar fans will get a further offering in a couple of weeks as to how close their team will be in the final shake-up.