WITH the Sydney derby next week, and having seen their cross-town rivals pull off a most unlikely victory in the hours before, it felt like Western Sydney had to answer at Parramatta Stadium on Sunday. They left it late, but eventually that answer came.
The result looked done and dusted – a bore, scoreless draw – until the burly frame of Wanderers’s substitute Dino Kresinger wrestled his way into the box.
After being booed when introduced as a second-half substitute, the Croatian had something to prove. Handled by Brisbane’s Matt Jurman as he entered the box, Kresinger lumbered on, eventually going to ground.
With whatever voice they had left, the crowd roared for a penalty and referee Alan Milliner obliged. Shinji Ono calmly stroked home with the clock ticking into the 87th minute. Most of the 6755 fans on hand started chanting ”Dino, Dino, Dino”. How fortunes can change so quickly in this game.
But the points weren’t safe yet. Not by a long shot. As injury time closed in, Matt Jurman’s header was saved, inch perfect, on the line by Ante Covic.
Then Erik Paartalu let fly with a 30-metre screamer that crashed into the crossbar. That was followed by a Shane Stefanutto rocket that hit the post.
But no matter how hard Brisbane tried, the thing wouldn’t go in. They would go home without a goal and without a point.
The result was all the more meritorious because Western Sydney were without two of their biggest attacking weapons, Mark Bridge and Aaron Mooy. Bridge was sidelined for the week with a groin strain while Mooy was busy putting free kicks in the top corner for the national team.
Mooy was joined in Hong Kong by Matt Smith, meaning James Donachie partnered Jurman at the back for the Roar.
The early signs seemed promising for Brisbane. They were fluid – not as fluid as it was last year, or the year before that, but more than they have been in the season so far.
Brisbane are at their best when they follow two simple rules. Obvious enough is keeping possession and quick passing, but the other, equally important, is movement. Through the lines, overlapping out wide, rotating in attack.
In their efforts to get it right, however, the Wanderers moved to counter-attack.
Eight minutes in, Yousouff Hersi let fly with what would have been a contender for goal of the season, had it actually gone in. Mateo Poljak and Ono also had decent efforts go just wide.
Brisbane still had their share of territory and possession but were struggling to create chances. That early intent faded rapidly and the Wanderers’s back four started to play a higher line. Worst of all for Brisbane, towards the end of the half, they started getting lazy.
The worst offender – unfortunately so for the neutrals – was Thomas Broich. For every nice touch, a sloppy pass seemed to follow, at which point the German dropped his head and left others to track back. The moment where he skinned Nikolai Topor-Stanley, charged to the edge of the box and then crossed glibly summed up his day.
Restoring Broich to past glories will be a stern managerial test of Rado Vidosic. Get him right and the Roar, believe it or not, are still contenders. Until then, it’s a frustrating wait for all concerned.
Brisbane at least began to grind in the second half, and hardly did the Wanderers get their foot on the ball for extended periods. Roar captain Massimo Murdocca was perhaps inspired by the statue of Ray Price outside and, for the day, took the nickname ”Perpetual Motion”. Besart Berisha was similarly lion-hearted.
However, that would count for nothing at the end. Despite having created virtually nothing in the second half, the Wanderers only needed only one moment to win it.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.