Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll take a look back at the season that was, the success stories, the disappointments and take a brief look to what may lie ahead for next season. Yesterday we took a look at the season as a whole, today we’ll coach Mike Mulvey and how he fared after coming in mid-season.
It came as something of a surprise when Mike Mulvey replaced Rado Vidosic after just 11 games in charge of this past season, and the former Gold Coast boss had some major obstacles to overcome, both internal and external. In order to assess the performance of Mike we’ll look at three different areas in which he’s had an impact- results, tactics and the transfer market.
We’ll start with what is seen on the park every week given that’s what matters the most, and at the time of his appointment the two goals set out in front of him were to make the finals, and to get into the group stage of the Champions League. He obliviously failed to meet the continental football objective, however given the circumstances associated with it they did a decent job. As Mulvey said at the time, the game came too soon for them and they weren’t ready as a team or club for that level this season.
In the A-League he took over a side that was second from bottom with just 11 points from 11 games and went on to win 8 of his first 16 games in the league. In fact, if you isolate the 16 league games in charge under Mulvey, the results look impressive. Brisbane has the 5th best record over the stretch, slightly fewer than Central Coast and Melbourne, and comparable to Sydney who similarly made a 2nd half run at the finals.
If you compare Mulvey’s first 16 games as head coach to those of his predecessors in Brisbane, he stacks up well. Comparing Mulvey to the others over this sample Mulvey’s team won more games, picked up more points, scored more goals and conceded fewer goals than each of the other coaches teams did early in their reigns. All of that statistically makes him the most successful coach in Brisbane history- early in his tenure atleast. There’s still a long way to mind and he’s not achieved anything close to what his predecessor achieved, but so far he’s gotten the results. Making the finals after arriving mid-season, and getting a win on the road is an extra tick for him.
Table of results: Brisbane Roar Managers- first 16 matches in the league
Overall on the results side, Mulvey did what he had to do in reality- he made the finals. The performances were up and down, but from a results stand point he gets a solid mark on this one.
Moving on to the second area to assess Mulvey on, and this is where he’s really earned his money- on the tactical and style factor. At the time of his arrival, Brisbane were team lacking ideas, imagination and seemingly belief and motivation. Through various comments made by both himself and the GM they’ve basically admitted that the motivation and focus wasn’t as high as in the previous seasons, and Mulvey deserves credit for turning that around and getting the playing group focused again.
From a stylistic point of view, the majority of the patterns of play from the Postecoglou –and Vidosic- era still remain with emphasis on playing out from the back, and building up through the lines- albeit slightly different. The play still generally goes through the wings, however at times there’s been a tendency to play the ball forward in behind the defenders for the wingers to run onto and it’s worked well especially with Franjic in recent weeks.
In terms of tactical changes made by Mulvey, the only one of note has been the inverting on the triangle in midfield from one at the base and two further forward to two at the base and one playing off the striker. The move was designed to give Brisbane greater control of the game and more passing options while playing out and building up, while also bringing someone into the #10 role which is vital in today’s game. The change has brought the best out of Luke Brattan who’s done exceptionally well, and it’s also got Nichols playing some of his better football while new signing Nijland –who was signed to slot into the role- never really clicked.
Infact most of the improvements Mulvey has made have actually come from players already at the club. The departure of Erik Paartalu opened up the opportunity for Luke Brattan to come in, and he did an outstanding job alongside one of Mulvey’s signings in Steve Lustica. Brisbane were also leaking goals routinely before and just after his arrival, however his new looked backline of Hingert, Donachie, North and Stefanutto worked wonders at one stage keeping four successive clean sheets. They also conceded the second least goals in the league in his time as coach (15), only bettered by the surging Western Sydney Wanderers (13). Mike also deserves credit for getting two of Brisbane’s key performers –Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha- firing again.
His biggest move was the decision to throw Ivan Franjic further forward into the right wing role. It was viewed as something of a surprise, however the balance it brought to the right hand side was the key catalyst for the late season surge to the finals, and it worked a treat. Not only was Franjic far better in tracking back when possession was lost, he was also a constant threat down the right hand side in the latter weeks. It’s a move which rewarded Mulvey with three goals and countless opportunities for others.
It wasn’t the tactical and stylistic revolution we saw under Postecoglou, but that’s not what was needed. Small tweaks here and there are all that was needed, especially once the players rediscovered their hunger and focus for the contest again. Most of his decisions were made for him thanks to players leaving –Paartalu- and others not performing –Jurman-. He does however deserve credit for giving the youngsters an opportunity, and for moving Franjic further forward.
The third and final area to assess Mulvey on is his work in the transfer window, where he was reasonably busy, bringing in four fresh faces, signing two NYL players to the 1st team while also seeing five players depart. Here’s a rundown of transfer activity under his watch.
Brisbane’s transfer activity under Mulvey- (Jan 2012- Present)
Starting with his signings, and we’ll start with the most experienced of the bunch in Jade North. Jade came in at a time when he was seriously underdone and took some time to get his fitness back, but when he did he formed a formidable partnership with James Donachie providing experience and guidance to his younger teammate. The other big success has been the loan signing of Steve Lustica, who’s come in and played well alongside Brattan in the centre of midfield. He does a lot of the work that often goes unnoticed in a game, but he’s been a vital cog in the late season resurgence. He also chipped in with two goals at important times aswell which is handy. The signings of Brown and Lambadaridis should also put Brisbane in good shape moving forward and Brown has excelled in his rare opportunities to this point, while we haven’t seen much of Julius Doe to this point other than in the youth league.
While Lustica and North have been successes, the same cannot be said of Stef Nijland. Plucked from Dutch giants PSV –albeit out on loan at the time- Stef came in with the task of complementing Berisha. Unfortunately for both he and Brisbane, it didn’t work out. Nijland’s inability to pick the right option and read the movements of his teammates lead to chances going begging and as a result Nichols was restored to the starting line-up. It seems unlikely that he’ll be sticking around long term in Brisbane.
In terms of departures, most of these decisions were already made for him with Erik Paartalu longing for a move to the lucrative Chinese league, while Yuji Takahashi never made the grade and saw his loan terminated early. Rock Visconte never got a look in and was hardly a shock when his deal was ended three months early while young striker Anthony Proia was another who had no place under Mulvey. Nick Fitzgerald’s departure was a strange one in that he’d all but agreed to the move before Mulvey arrived. Once his move to Central Coast became official Mulvey decided he would no longer consider him for 1st team selection and force him to spend the rest of the year in the youth league, only to back down and agree to an early release a week later on the provision a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ would be in place preventing Nick from the following weeks game in Brisbane against the Mariners.
On the whole most of Mikes work in the transfer market has been good, with North and Lustica stepping into vitally roles in the side. He swung and missed on Nijland but he’s not the first manager to miss on a foreign import and he wont be the last. The handling of the Fitzgerald and Proia saga’s wasn’t the best but id prefer the manager to be focused on players who are actually in his plans.
On the whole when you look at the body of work Mike has done in terms of turning results around, re-gaining the groups focus, tactical tweaks and in the transfer market you have to say he’s done an impressive job. To make the finals from where they were is a solid achievement and to then back it up and win a final is even more impressive. The changes he made, both tactically and personnel wise worked for the most part. Next season will be the real test for Mike however, both in a recruiting stand point as there’s still a little bit of room to move in that regard, and also continuing to build upon the solid work at the back end of this season.
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll take a look back at the season that was, the success stories, the disappointments and take a brief look to what may lie ahead for next season. Later on we’ll look at different facets of the team and how the squad could be improved for next season, but for today we’ll start with a general overview of the season as a whole.
It was a relatively quiet close season for Brisbane after the immediate shock of losing Postecoglou right after the Grand Final and replacing him with long time assistant Rado Vidosic. New arrivals relatively sparse with just wingers Ben Halloran and Do Dong- Hyun plus defender Yuji Takahashi arriving as fresh faces in the squad. Matt Acton and James Donachie were also rewarded with first team status after impressing in the youth side. The biggest news infact in signing terms was the re-signing of many key contributors to long term extensions just prior to the season. Heading in the opposite direction were Sayed Mohamed Adnan, Issey Nakajima Farran, Andrew Redmayne, Matt Mundy and Kofi Danning.
On the park pre-season against the local clubs was again an enjoyable occasion with results going the way you would expect them too. Against A-League opposition however results were a tad concerning with Brisbane winning just 1 from 4 against their competitors, including a 6-2 thumping in Adelaide.
Round 1: Perth Glory (Mehmet 88’) 1-0 Brisbane Roar
Round 2: Brisbane Roar (Broich 21’, Paartalu 22’, Berisha x2 69’, 93’, Nichols 81’) 5-0 Melbourne Victory
Round 3: Wellington Phoenix (Huysegems 16’) 1-1 Brisbane Roar (Berisha 39’)
Round 4:Brisbane Roar 0-1 Western Sydney Wanderers (Bridge 19’)
The season began with a Grand Final rematch which was moved to Perth by the FFA to cash in on the whole ‘revenge’ angle and crowd wise it worked as Perth got a win late on via Mehmet. This game also saw the debut of both Ben Halloran and Do Dong-Hyun in Brisbane colours. The home opener the week after against Victory was a complete and utter domination from Brisbane as they handed ex boss Ange Postecoglou’ –who was unhappy with the pre-match comments calling them ‘distasteful and disrespectful’- new club their biggest ever defeat. The month was rounded out by a scrappy 1-1 draw across the Tasman, and a disappointing loss to the new kids Western Sydney who scored their 1st ever goal in the game.
Round 5: Brisbane Roar 0-1 Adelaide United (Vidosic 3’)
Round 6: Melbourne Heart (Gerhardt 19’, Garcia 62’, Tadic 70’, Williams 73’) 4-1 Brisbane Roar (Henrique 81’)
Round 7: Brisbane Roar (Broich 29’, Paartalu 32’, Halloran 44’, Berisha 56’) 4-2 Sydney FC (Del Piero x2 41’, 48’)
Round 8: Central Coast Mariners (Ibini 4’, Rogic 81’) 2-1 Brisbane Roar (Murdocca 32’)
November started with back to back defeats, firstly at home to Adelaide when the boss’ son scored an early free-kick, and then a 4-1 mauling by the Heart which saw Brisbane bottom of the table. The poor performance caused boss Rado Vidosic to call the performance ‘garbage’ and he publically questioned the playing groups hunger for future success- a statement which likely played apart in his departure. Brisbane bounced back from that with a vengeance, sweeping aside Alessandro Del Piero and his Sydney FC side at home with a thrilling 1st half display. The game also featured Ben Halloran’s 1st goal fro Brisbane. The month was rounded out with yet another defeat however, as not even a rare Massimo Murdocca goal was enough to keep Brisbane’s record of never losing in Gosford alive.
Round 9: Brisbane Roar (Berisha 39’ pen) 1-0 Newcastle Jets
Round 10: Western Sydney Wanderers (Ono 89’ pen) 1-0 Brisbane Roar
Round 11: Melbourne Victory (Milligan 48’) 1-1 Melbourne Victory (Halloran 24’)
Round 12: Brisbane Roar 0-1 Perth Glory (McGarry 44’)
Round 13: Adelaide United 0-1 Brisbane Roar (Henrique 64’)
December started off better, with a Besart Berisha penalty giving Brisbane the points over the Jets in a match that was remembered more for the bizarre sending off of Thomas Broich. That red card was rightfully rescinded as Brisbane suffered a 2nd defeat against the Wanderers via a late Ono penalty. It was then round II with Ange and Brisbane remained unbeaten against their former mentor, however this time they shared the spoils with Melbourne after Milligan cancelled out Halloran’s opener.
That however was to be the last game of the Rado Vidosic era as just days later the club announced that he had been ‘promoted’ to the role of Technical Director’. The managerial position was taken by Melbourne Victory W-League and former QAS and Gold Coast United boss Mike Mulvey. The announcement was something of a surprise with most fans expecting the long-time assistant to get longer to turn things around. The new boss however was only an interim appointment until the end of the season.
Mulvey’s 1st game just so happened to be a grand final rematch with Perth this time managing to hold a 1-0 win at Suncorp, thanks in part to two spurned chances by Berisha. Brisbane rounded out 2012 with a 1st win for Mulvey down in Adelaide with Henrique and Mitch Nichols combining nicely for the games only goal. The result meant that Mulvey got his 1st win as Brisbane boss in the same fixture Postecoglou did some 3 years earlier.
Round 14: Brisbane Roar (Berisha 14’, Halloran 57’) 2-1 Wellington Phoenix (Brockie 35’)
Round 15: Melbourne Heart (Williams 13’, Tadic 35’, Fred 53’) 3-2 Brisbane Roar (Berisha x2 74’ pen, 76’)
Round 16: Newcastle Jets (Griffiths 48’) 1-0 Brisbane Roar
Round 17: Brisbane Roar (Nichols 22’) 1-2 Western Sydney Wanderers (Bridge 65’, Hersi 69’)
Round 18: Perth Glory 0-1 Brisbane Roar (Meyer 15’)
There were no big celebrations on new years for Brisbane, with a new years game at home to Wellington and goals from Halloran and Berisha kick started 2013 with 3 points and back to back wins for the first time this season. It was however a false dawn with Brisbane going on to lose their next 3 matches –away to Heart, away to Jets and home to Western Sydney- before rounding out the month with a 1-0 win away to Perth courtesy of a James Meyer thunderbolt.
It was a month of change however with plenty of comings and goings in the transfer market. Mainstay of the championship winning seasons headed off to Chinese club Tianjin Teda following months of speculation. The big man departed with 85 games, 11 goals, a premiership and two championship winners’ medals from his two and a half year stay in Brisbane. Other departures included young winger Nick Fitzgerald who returned to the Central Coast Mariners, Rocky Visconte who headed south to the Western Sydney Wanderers, defender Yuji Takahashi saw his loan deal terminated early and young striker Anthony Proia was released before signing for NSWPL side Marconi.
Coming into the club were four new signings as Mulvey attempted to re-shape the playing roster. His first signing was that of central defender and sometime Socceroo Jade North from J League side Consadole Sapporo and he followed that up with young attacker Julies Doe from Melbourne Victory. Mulvey also opted for two loan signings with young midfielder Steve Lustica who worked with Mulvey previously at Gold Coast, and PSV attacking midfielder Stef Nijland brought in to provide more balance and attacking options in the midfield.
Round 19: Brisbane Roar (Berisha 47’, 69’) 2-2 Central Coast Mariners (McGlinchey 8’, McBreen 80’)
Round 20: Sydney FC (Del Piero 7’, Triantis 69’) 2-1 Brisbane Roar (Berisha 45’pen)
ACL play off: Buriram United 0-0 Brisbane Roar (Buriram won 3-0 on penalties)
Round 21: Brisbane Roar (Lustica 32’, Berisha 43’) 2-0 Wellington Phoenix
Round 22: Newcastle Jets 0-0 Brisbane Roar
February began with a match against CentralCoast which saw Brisbane turn on the style in attack but leave the back door open for the Mariners to get a draw out of the contest. Brisbane then took on another of their former managers for the first time with Frank Farina having taken charge of Sydney FC, and the former Roar boss got some revenge against the club who sacked him with a 2-1 win. Brisbane rounded out the month on the domestic scene with a 2-0 home win over Wellington and 0-0 draw away to Newcastle which saw Jade North incorrectly have a goal ruled out for offside.
February however was also the month that Brisbane was to begin its 2013 AFC Champions League campaign, and having seen their automatic qualification spot be taken away by the AFC and circumstances seeing them lose hosting rights, they’d have to travel to Thailand to take on Buriram United. They put up a gritty performance but were outplayed in large parts by their Thai opponents however they dug deep to force the game to penalties. Unfortunately none of Brisbane’s takers could find the mark and Brisbane missed out on a 2nd group stage appearance.
On the way home however the Brisbane board had decided that Mike Mulvey had done enough to warrant the job on a full time basis, announcing a 2 year extension for the under fire boss on arrival back in Brisbane. The decision was greeted with some scepticism from some fans who felt results didn’t justify the new deal, however the board outlined the good work Mulvey was doing behind the scenes as the catalyst for the decision.
Round 23: Adelaide United 0-1 Brisbane Roar (Halloran 82’)
Round 24: Brisbane Roar (Franjic 59’) 1-1 Melbourne Victory (Broxham 11’)
Round 25: Central Coast Mariners (Ibini 33’) 1-0 Brisbane Roar
Round 26: Brisbane Roar (Berisha 12’ pen, Broich 31’) 2-0 Melbourne Heart
Round 27: Brisbane Roar (Berisha 29’, Lustica 51’, Franjic 79’) 3-1 Sydney FC (Del Piero 84’)
March was the month that Mulvey really began to put his stamp on the team, and as the season came to a close you could see the players building in confidence. It all started down in Adelaide when Ivan Franjic moved forward in the formation to right wing in a move designed to create more balance down the right side. It worked, to devastating effect as Franjic had a man of the match performance before Halloran popped up late to give Brisbane 3 precious points. A 1 all draw with the Victory followed which saw Brisbane continue the run of not losing to Postecoglou, before a 1-0 loss in Gosford left Brisbane two games to secure a finals berth.
The first of those against the Heart was dealt with in clinical fashion and the 2-0 result moved Brisbane inside the top 6, and knocked their opponents out of the race. It then all came down to the final game of the season against Sydney FC, and Brisbane produced another solid display to secure finals football for a 3rd straight season, and continue a streak of not losing at home to Sydney which dates back to late 2007. The finals beckoned, and despite only finishing in 5th place and having to do it all on the road this time around, confidence was high as Brisbane were playing their best football of the season.
Elimination Final: Adelaide United (Vidosic 88’) 1-2 Brisbane Roar (Brattan 27’, Franjic 45’)
Semi Final: Western Sydney Wanderers (Kressinger 16’, Ono 71’) 2-0 Brisbane Roar
April ofcourse is finals time and for Brisbane that started down in Adelaide, where their late season charge ironically began about a month earlier, and just like that day Brisbane had no dramas. First half goals from Luke Brattan and Ivan Franjic effectively put the game to bed before Vidosic made it interesting late on, however Brisbane would hold on. But not without paying an injury price with Luke Brattan, Jack Hingert and Thomas Broich all injured in the clash and were in doubt for a semi-final meeting with Western Sydney just 5 days later.
As it turned out, both Broich and Brattan were fit for the Grand Final qualifer at a pacekd Parramatta Stadium ,however with Jack Hingert out Brisbane would be forced to move in former attacker Ivan Franjic back into his old right back spot. The Wanderers were the more clinical and better team on the day and ended Brisbane’s quest for a 3rd successive championship with goals from Dino Kressinger and Shinji Ono giving the new boys a 4th victory of the season against Brisbane and a 1st ever Grand Final berth for them.
It was yet another good season for Brisbane, who played their 200th game of life in the A-League along the way and although it didn’t end in the ultimate success this time around, there were some positive signs late in the season that give hope for next season that Brisbane will once again be right there fighting for the prizes in the finals.
Brisbane Roar: 0
Western Sydney Wanderers: 2 (Kressinger 16’, Ono 71’)
Brisbane’s season, and it’s quest for a 3rd successive championship ended last night down in Parramatta, with the Wanderers being just too good and too clinical on the night. A first half goal from Kressinger and a sensational second from Ono giving the hosts the win, and their first ever Grand Final appearance. The first half was controlled by the Wanderers with Brisbane failing to create a chance inside their penalty area. Brisbane were better in the second half but they just couldn’t make one of their half chances count.
Starting with Brisbane, they just weren’t at their best last night, and it’s pretty obvious the injury to Broich was more serious than was made out. He battled on out there but imo he just wasn’t himself, and when you add that to Ben Halloran not having his best game out on the right the usual penetration out wide just wasn’t there without Franjic. Brisbane did control the second half, but with the Wanderers just sitting back they were extremely well organised and tough to break down. The red card gave them a slight opening, however that just encouraged them to sit back on their 18 yard box and when they’re organised like they were it becomes near impossible to find a way through.
Western Sydney were as good as they’ve been all season, doing what they do best. The first goal they scored is a great example of what they do very well. They won the ball with extreme press in the attacking third when Brisbane had moved players forward into attacking positions, and within about 5 seconds and 2 passes Kressinger was in for a tap in. You could question the marking of Donachie and North with neither really close to Kressinger if you want to, but the counter attack was just so quick. As for the second, there isn’t a lot you can say about that, just a quality strike, too good. Good luck to them in the final, although no Hersi for the decider will make it tough for them. They should probably be missing Beauchamp too who can count himself very lucky to avoid a 2nd yellow card just minutes after his 1st.
Brisbane: Theo 7, Franjic 6, Donachie 6, North 6, Stefanutto 6, Brattan 7, Lustica 6, Halloran 6, Nichols 6, Broich 6, Berisha 6, Murdocca 6, Yeboah 6, Nijland 6.
Western Sydney: Covic 7, Polenz 6, Beauchamp 6, Topor-Stanley 7, Cole 7, Perkatis 7, Polenz 7, Ono 8, Hersi 7, Bridge 7, Kressinger 7, Haliti 6, Trifiro 6, Elrich 7.
Up next: Well, it’s that long and quiet time also known as the off season, with the reality that there will be no Brisbane games until late June. In the meantime there’s the season review to look forward to.
After last week’s dominant 2-1 win against Adelaide, Brisbane are just 90 minutes away from a third successive Grand Final appearance. The task in front of them however isn’t an easy one, with Premiers Plate winner Western Sydney riding some strong momentum and are currently 13 games unbeaten. The fact that Brisbane will be missing reliable full-back Jack Hingert and going in with atleast some questions over the fitness of Thomas Broich adds to the task. More on the injuries and how it could affect the side in a moment.
Western Sydney: WDWWW
Brisbane: Besart Berisha (14)
Western Sydney: Mark Bridge (11)
Season against Western Sydney Wanderers:
Round 4: Brisbane Roar 0-1 Western Sydney Wanderers (Bridge 19’)
Round 10: Western Sydney Wanderers (Ono 89’- pen) 1-0 Brisbane Roar
Round 17: Brisbane Roar (Nichols 22’) 1-2 Western Sydney Wanderers (Bridge 65’, Hersi 69’)
Brisbane Roar squad:
1. Michael Theo (gk), 3. Shane Stefanutto, 4. Matt Jurman, 5. Ivan Franjic, 7. Besart Berisha, 8. Massimo Murdocca, 9. Stef Nijland, 11. Ben Halloran, 12. Julius Doe, 13. Jade North, 14. Steven Lustica, 15. James Donachie, 17. Mitch Nichols, 18. Luke Brattan, 20. Matt Acton (gk), 22. Thomas Broich (c), 21. James Meyer, 25. George Lambadaridis, 26. Corey Brown, 29) Kwame Yeboah (Four to be omitted)
Western Sydney Wanderers squad:
1. Ante Covic (GK), 2. Shannon Cole, 4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 5. Michael Beauchamp, 6. Jerome Polenz, 7. Labinot Haliti, 8. Mateo Poljak, 9. Dino Kresinger, 10. Aaron Mooy, 11. Tarek Elrich, 13. Joey Gibbs, 14. Kwabena Appiah-Kubi, 15. Reece Caira, 16. Rocky Visconte, 17. Youssouf Hersi, 19. MarkBridge, 21. Shinji Ono, 23. Jason Trifiro, 24. Yianni Perkatis, 25. Josh Barresi, 30 Carlos Saliadarre (GK) (Five to be omitted)
Brisbane: Theo, Franjic, North, Donachie, Stefanutto, Brattan, Lustica, Halloran, Nichols, Broich, Berisha.
Subs: Acton, Brown, Murdocca, Yeboah, Nijland.
Omitted: Jurman, Lambadaridis, Doe, Meyer.
Western Sydney: Covic, Polenz, Beauchamp, Topor-Stanley, Cole, Poljak, Mooy, Ono, Hersi, Bridge, Kressinger.
Subs: Saliadarre, Elrich, Trifiro, Visconte, Haliti
Omitted: Gibbs, Appiah-Kubi, Caira, Perkatis, Barresi.
Brisbane played extremely well on Sunday down in Adelaide controlling the game from just about start to finish and they could have won the game by a bigger margin, however they’ll have to play even better tonight to beat the Premiers. Western Sydney have a tendency to sit deeper and allow sides comfortable possession in the defensive third, before crowding sides out in the middle to front thirds to win the ball back. And it’s when they do win the ball back that they’re at there most effective on the counter attack with the pace of Hersi on the right a constant threat all season long, and it’s this exact tactic that has got Brisbane into some trouble this season. Brisbane as we all know love to get numbers forward in attack to create overloads in the wider areas especially with the fullbacks so if they do lose possession high up the pitch recovery in defensive transition will be critical and it could be up to Brattan and Lustica at the base of midfield to step in and cut out counter attacks if the fullbacks are caught up the pitch.
Western Sydney ofcourse had the weekend off which is a nice luxury in comparison to Brisbane having just 5 days recovery/preparation for this one, however I don’t expect them to be rusty. They’ve been building to this game for some time now, and for them it’s a matter of shutting down their midfield. At times in the three games their midfield completely outplayed the Brisbane midfield –especially in the 1st meeting- with Ono and Mooy in particular looking dominant at times. That was however the old Roar midfield with Mulvey implementing basically and entire new midfield structure since the sides last met in late January.
Both sides going into this one tonight have their own equally important injury and suspension concerns. Brisbane are obviously weakened at the back with Jack Hingert joining Matt Smith in being out for the season, which likely has ramifications in the front third and the bench too. In all likelihood –and Marco is reporting this in the paper today aswell- Ivan Franjic will being moved back to the right back slot, with the inconsistent yet potential x-factor Ben Halloran coming into the starting line-up.
I asked the question earlier in the week about what is the best way to solve the problem at right back and the vote was very close on both options, and for mine the above is the best choice simply for the fact it requires less of a change to the rest of the team. While Brown did an admirable job filling in a couple of weeks ago, the fact it would require 3 positional changes to accommodate him makes it too risky for such a big game imo.
If as expected Halloran does come into the side, it creates another problem for Mulvey- who are his game changers if required off the bench? In recent weeks Halloran and Nijland have filled those roles well, but if Halloran starts someone else has to step up Would it be the young Yeboah who has a handful of minutes in the A-League and was a surprise on the bench last week, Julius Doe who’s had a similar amount of 1st team exposure since his arrival in January, or would the exiled James Meyer come back into calculations? There’s also a chance that it could be Corey Brown added to the bench as defensive cover with just Yeboah, Murdocca and Nijland to change the game if required.
Western Sydney have their own concerns with Iacopo La Rocca out suspended and reportedly 1st choice left back Adam D’Apuzzo will also miss with injury. Shannon Cole is the logical replacement there and with his set piece qualities he adds something to the side. They’ve also got question marks over Ono, Polenz and Mooy but like Broich and Brattan they’re all going to start the game.
Season recap against the Wanderers:
Western Sydney have won all three games this season against the Roar, however it must be pointed out that two of those were throughout the struggles of the Vidosic era, and the third and final meeting was back before Mulvey had really stamped his authority on this team so in some was that is an irrelevant fact. They did however totally control that first meeting up here when they picked up their 1st ever win –and goal-. I remember Aaron Mooy being utterly dominant in the match and the Wanderers hitting Brisbane on the counter attack constantly.
For the rematch in Parramatta the 1st half was largely uneventful, however the Wanderers had the better of it. Brisbane were far better in the second half right up until the 18 yard box where they had no idea how to create the opening and they were eventually punished by Ono from the penalty spot after a softish but sloppy piece of defending from Jurman. Only after that did they have any real shot of note when Stefanutto hit the crossbar from 25m after a corner was cleared. The third and final meeting was right in the middle of that transition period for Brisbane. The Wanderers ended up winning the game with a run down Brisbane’ left hand side when the players were appealing for offside and the Wanderers just played the whistle and got their rewards. They were the better side once again however it must be said, but it’s not a true reflection on Brisbane for a number of reasons.
For starters Erik Paartalu had just departed which meant that Luke Brattan was only just getting a chance –and he was coming back cold after an ankle injury-, new signings Julius Doe, Steve Lustica and Jade North had just arrived, and Stef Nijland was still a few weeks away from touching down in Brisbane. In addition to that the move of Franjic to right wing which has made the whole late season resurgence click hadn’t happened and the key attacking duo of Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha still weren’t quiet themselves. So this is really the 1st time the Wanderers will have seen this current variation of Brisbane, albeit slightly altered given Franjic will once again be in the defensive line.
For mine this is going to be an incredibly tight contest that could even go to extra time and penalties. This is going to be an extremely close –and probably nerve wracking at times- semi final, but hopefully Brisbane’ big game experience is enough to see them into a third successive Grand Final.
Brisbane Roar: (Brattan 27′, Franjic 45’+)
Adelaide United: 1 (Vidosic 88′)
Crowd: 10, 234 at Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide
Brisbane are into the A-League Semi-Finals after an impressive performance in Adelaide. First half goals from Luke Brattan and Ivan Franjic gave the visitors a half time lead before former Roar player Dario Vidosic made it close at the end. Brisbane now move on to face Western Sydney on Friday night, however there remains some doubt over injures- more on that in a moment.
Brisbane started the game brightly and for mine they controlled the opening half by controlling possession in the opponents half, while Adelaide only had the two chances in the first half- one they blazed well wide, and the other a goalmouth scramble which ended with Theo diving on the ball. On the whole Brisbane controlled the game for mine and it was well deserved when they took the lead with a creative set piece option that saw Brattan totally unmarked outside the box. The second goal right on half time was well deserved for Franjic who had another super impressive game on the right wing, but was also some poor defending and ball watching from Adelaide.
Brisbane also largely controlled the second half, albeit more on the counter with Adelaide throwing men forward trying to get back into the match. They had their chances to finish the game off, although substitutes Stef Nijland and Ben Halloran both spurned good opportunities. Adelaide were aggressive in their attempts to win the ball high up the park –and should have seen a red for Juric-, and they finally got their rewards with two minutes + stoppages to play when Vidosic was unmarked in the box before firing past Theo. It wasn’t the greatest defending in the world, with Franjic overloaded in a 2v1 with no cover. Adelaide had a couple of half chances in stoppage time, with the last falling to Galekovic who came forward at the death.
Brisbane were impressive once again yesterday, and continued their late season form by producing by far their best 45 minutes recently in the 1st half yesterday. Brattan was pulling the strings once again from the deeper lying role, playing some direct passes in behind for Franjic especially, in order to counter the high defensive line and pressure from the Adelaide side. The defensive pairing of Donachie and North were also once again impressive, especially the young Donachie who was playing his 1st finals game.
The sour note for Brisbane is that they’ve picked up 3 injures that could rob them of players that have been at the heart of the late season resurgence. Starting with the most serious, Jack Hingert picked up a pretty bad knock on his ankle and by all reports he’s highly unlikely to get back for the weekend. That in all likelihood means that Ivan Franjic, who’s been excellent further forward, would likely have to drop back into his old right back role with Halloran most likely coming in. That would take away one of the more potent parts of Brisbane’s recent run, with that right side providing a lot of offence in recent weeks.
Luke Brattan and Thomas Broich also picked up knocks in this one with Broich’s seemingly more serious, although both are likely to play. Missing either of those would be a massive blow to Mulvey and his team, as they’ve been the two creative fulcrums of his new looked team- Brattan the deeper lying out and Broich in and around the final third. We’ll find out later in the week but hopefully all three will be available for Friday night.
I was a little disappointed in Adelaide, for mine they were nowhere near their best and they’ll be disappointed to have flamed out like they have since the turn of the year when they were pushing for top spot. There seems to be a bit of unrest at the club right now –Galekovic strongly hinted today, before the chairman publically responded- and that more than likely had an impact on their performance and will make their offseason rather interesting.
Adelaide: Galekovic 7, Malik 6, Fyfe 6, Boogaard 6, Cassio 6, McKain 6, Carrusca 6, Vidosic 7, Neumann 6, Ramsay 6, Djite 6, Barker-Daish 6, Ferreira 6, Juric 6.
Up next: Brisbane will head south to take on Western Sydney Wanderers, for a spot in their 3rd successive A-League Grand Final on Friday night.
The finals are here, and Brisbane are just 3 games from a 3rd successive championship, however unlike previous years they’ll be doing this solely on the road, starting on Sunday afternoon down in Adelaide. Brisbane has the advantage in this one with two extra days of recovery/preparation, although that is negated somewhat by the travel factor.
Brisbane: 1. Michael Theo (gk), 3. Shane Stefanutto, 4. Matt Jurman, 5. Ivan Franjic, 7. Besart Berisha, 8. Massimo Murdocca, 9. Stef Nijland, 10. Henrique, 11. Ben Halloran, 12. Julius Doe, 13. Jade North, 14. Steven Lustica, 15. James Donachie, 17. Mitch Nichols, 18. Luke Brattan, 19. Jack Hingert, 20. Matt Acton (gk), 22. Thomas Broich (c), 21. James Meyer, 25. George Lambadaridis, 26. Corey Brown
Adelaide: 1.Eugene Galekovic (c), 2.Osama Malik, 3.Nigel Boogaard, 4.Jon McKain, 5.Iain Fyfe, 6.Cassio, 8.Marcelo Carrusca, 10.Dario Vidosic, 11.Bruce Djite, 12.Antony Golec, 14.Cameron Watson, 15.Jacob Melling, 16.Daniel Bowles, 17.Iain Ramsay, 18.Fabian Barbiero, 19.Jake Barker-Daish, 20.Paul Izzo (gk), 21.Jeronimo Neumann, 22.Fabio Ferreira, 23.Evan Kostopoulos, 24.Awer Mabil, 25.Tomi Juric
Brisbane: Theo, Hingert, North, Donachie, Stefanutto, Brattan, Lustica, Franjic, Nichols, Broich, Berisha.
Subs: Acton, Murdocca, Halloran, Henrique, Nijland.
Omitted: Jurman, Doe, Meyer, Lambadaridis, Brown
Adelaide: Galekovic, Malik, Boogaard, Golec, Cassio, McKain, Carrusca, Ferreira, Vidosic, Ramsay, Juric.
Subs: Izzo, Bowles, Barbiero, Neumann, Djite.
Omitted: Fyfe, Melling, Barker-Daish, Kostopoulos, Mabil, Watson.
Brisbane: Besart Berisha (14)
Adelaide: Dario Vidosic (9)
Season against Adelaide United:
Round 5: Brisbane Roar 0-1 Adelaide United (Vidosic 3’)
Round 13: Adelaide United 0-1 Brisbane Roar (Henrique 66’)
Round 23:Adelaide United 0-1 Brisbane Roar (Halloran 82’)
Brisbane are coming into this finals series with some real form behind them –one loss in five matches- and what’s more important is that they’ve finally got a settled team which functions in a way that best utilises it’s best players. It’s no accident that Berisha and Broich have began to play to their maximum once again, and it’s in no small part down to the changes made in recent weeks. Settling on Nichols in the role behind Berisha has worked and made Berisha more dangerous, due to the fact he’s not dropping off the front like for Nijland to play upfront. Behind them in the midfield the combination of Lustica and Brattan is a young one, but it’s been extremely effective with Brattan getting the ball forward quicker than Paartalu was doing capitalising on the space –especially in the wider areas with Franjic on the right- on the counter attack. Lustica meanwhile does a lot of good work that often goes unnoticed in the middle and he’s also added a goalscoring touch to his game which is valuable.
Brisbane have also had one of the league’s best defences in recent weeks with Theo, and the back four all coming into some very solid form, infact they went some 400 minutes without conceding following the ACL exit which helped solidify things, and is a sign that the North- Donachie combination has gelled nicely. The addition of Hingert has also brought in more stability to the side and allowed Franjic to really push on which he’s done to maximum effect for Brisbane in recent weeks.
Adelaide in comparison are in probably the worst form going into the finals, with just one win in their last five matches and an air of uncertainty around the place with the coaching situation looming as a distraction over the squad. They’ve still got enough about them however to pose a real threat however, with Vidosic in the creative role, and either Juric, Djite or Neumann upfront and quality out wide in Carrusca, Ferreira and Ramsay. At the back they’re solid aswell with one of the leagues best keepers in Galekovic and a solid defensive unit in front of him which will likely include Jon McKain as the #6, or deep lying midfielder. Malik’s switch from defensive midfielder under Kosmina to the right back role under Valkanis has also been an interesting and reasonably successful move, and how he deals with the threat of Thomas Broich could be a deciding factor in this match.
Brisbane owns the season record 2-1 over Adelaide, but all three matches have been close affairs. Adelaide won the 1st encounter with an early Dario Vidosic free-kick, which was followed by unsuccessful Brisbane pressure, while the second game was a largely scrappy affair which brought Mulvey’s 1st win as Roar coach via a nice bit of play from Nichols and a finish from Henrique. The most recent meeting was also down in Adelaide and this was an unremarkable game with Brisbane controlling proceedings with Adelaide having one of their poorer days. Ben Halloran stepped up late to give Brisbane the three points on that occasion. Although it should be pointed out that Brisbane’s record all up in Adelaide isn’t the best, with a few painful season ending defeats –most notably the Prelim final of 2009- occurring down in the city of churches. Hopefully the season record holds true and Brisbane are into a Grand Final qualifier next weekend against either Western Sydney or CentralCoast.