A late Ivan Franjic goal has given the Brisbane Roar a 2-1 win over an under-strength Wellington Phoenix in their opening Hyundai A-League game at Westpac Stadium.
A late Ivan Franjic goal has given the Brisbane Roar a 2-1 win over an under-strength Wellington Phoenix in their opening Hyundai A-League game at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
The match looked headed for a draw after a first-half goal from Stein Huysegems was cancelled out by Besart Berisha early in the second stanza, until Franjic struck on the stroke of full-time.
It was a cruel blow for the Phoenix, who were missing key players through international duty and injury, and their new coach Ernie Merrick.
With regulars Andrew Durante, Jeremy Brockie, Leo Bertos and Glen Moss all with the All Whites and Louis Fenton injured, Merrick handed A-League debuts to Luke Adams, Reece Caira, Kenny Cunningham and Jason Hicks, while Carlos Hernandez was making his first appearance for the Phoenix.
A lively, occasionally tetchy first half, produced just one goal, for Huysegems, although the Roar created plenty of chances for Berisha which he just could not put away, while Franjic also hit the woodwork.
Hernandez and Cunningham were heavily involved for the Phoenix and Cunningham probably should have joined Huysegems on the score sheet but wasted two chances late in the first half.
Cunningham was replaced by Paul Ifill on 55 minutes but Hernandez, playing his first A-League game since the 2011-12 season for Melbourne Victory, got through the full 90 minutes.
Huysegems opened his account for the season with a well-taken goal in the 22nd minute.
A long ball from stand-in captain Ben Sigmund was chested down by Michael Boxall and Huysegems made no mistake from close range.
It was the second successive season the Belgian has scored the Phoenix's opening goal of a campaign.
However, the Phoenix's makeshift back four were regularly split to give Berisha his opportunities.
Twice Phoenix goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley came off his line to smother Berisha's attempts.
Caira also blocked two shots by the Albanian striker while Berisha fired another attempt wide when under no pressure as well.
When he did find the back of the net in first half stoppage time it was correctly ruled out for offside.
But the Roar striker only had to wait 52 seconds after the restart to finally get his goal after a well-placed cross from Franjic and the action continued to flow from end to end.
Huysegems was denied a second goal by a smart save from Michael Theo in the 64th minute, before Franjic saw his 75th-minute header come back off the crossbar.
Both teams continued to press hard for the winner and it came right at the death when Thomas Broich's shot flew back off the post to the feet of Franjic and he made no mistake.
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Huysegems 22) Brisbane Roar 2 (Berisha 46, Franjic 90) Crowd: 8239 @ Westpac Stadium