Roar rise again
They looked like also-rans earlier in the season but, all of a sudden, Brisbaner Roar look very much like the competition’s team to beat.
“I was wrong!” wails Social Distortion-s guitar-wielding vocalist Mike Ness on their seminal 1996 album White Light, White Heat, White Trash.
Ness was lamenting a misspent youth on his band-s Velvet Underground-inspired classic, but he may as well have been referring to the greatly exaggerated rumours of Brisbane Roar-s demise.
Plenty of pundits, including this columnist, long ago wrote off Brisbane-s chances of causing any damage in this season-s final series.
Yet the Roar are now just one game away from reaching a third consecutive grand final and establishing themselves as the Hyundai A-League-s greatest ever team.
Their 2-1 win over Adelaide United at Hindmarsh Stadium on Sunday afternoon was founded on a couple of spectacularly volleys.
“I think the first one was really important because it quietened the crowd down,” said Roar coach Mike Mulvey of midfielder Luke Brattan-s ferociously hit opener.
It will be a shame if Brattan-s spectacular strike is credited as a Cassio own goal - not least because the Roar midfielder had never scored in the A-League before - as the long-range missile was bound for the back of the net before the veteran Adelaide defender-s intervention.
“There-s no better striker of a ball in the league than Luke Brattan,” added Mulvey. “I was very pleased for him because it was an important goal for him and an important goal for us.”
He-s not wrong, though Ivan Franjic-s acrobatic volley shortly before half-time ultimately sealed victory for the visitors.
The versatile Franjic is in career-best form and though his strike actually came off his shin, the tireless workhorse should come into serious contention for the Socceroos- upcoming East Asian Championship campaign in July.
The Roar now march on to a semi-final against premiers Western Sydney Wanderers at what should be a restlessly sold-out Parramatta Stadium on Friday night.
The trouble for Mulvey and his charges is that three of them picked up potentially serious injuries in their bruising win over the Reds.
Defender Jack Hingert looks almost certain to miss the sudden-death showdown in Parramatta after spending the final 20 minutes in Adelaide with his ankle in ice on the sideline, though there could be better news for Thomas Broich and goal-scorer Brattan.
Broich has been in red-hot form over the past few weeks and he was at his inspirational best against the Reds, driving his team forward at every opportunity and proving a constant menace to the Adelaide defence.
Unfortunately for Brisbane fans the German maestro was substituted at half-time after taking a knock to his achilles, however Mulvey appears confident that both he and Brattan will be fit in time for Friday night-s blockbuster.
For Adelaide, it was a case of what might have been after a season which started with so much promise ultimately fizzled out amid yet another disappointing home defeat.
Just like Brisbane, so too did Adelaide make a coaching change midway through the season, however former Reds defender Michael Valkanis failed to inspire his side to any great heights in the United hotseat.
Despite boasting a wealth of experience and creative talent, a season of simmering off-field tension seemed to take its toll, meaning it-s back to the drawing board for the oft-underachieving South Australian side.
Meanwhile, all those who wrote off Brisbane Roar watch on intently as the two-time defending champions set about serving up several slices of humble pie.
It will count for nothing unless the Roar can defeat the competition-s form team Western Sydney on their own patch on Friday night.
But in the form they-re in, is it wise to count against Brisbane?
They looked like also-rans earlier in the season but, all of a sudden, the Roar look very much like the competition-s team to beat.