The Hyundai A-League’s top two sides are ready to lock horns again in Sunday’s Grand Final with the much fancied Brisbane Roar firm favourites to claim their maiden championship at the expense of Central Coast Mariners.
The Roar dominated the regular season with an unbeaten run that now stretches to 27 games, and Ange Postecoglu’s men will be eager to complete the excellent job they have done over the past few months.
In early team news, Postecoglu has confirmed that Brazilian striker Henrique will start the game on the bench despite recovering from a mild quad strain. Instead Juan Carlos Solorzano will probably lead the attack alongside Kiwi Kosta Barbarouses.
“It looks (like Solorzano will start) unless anything unforseen happens,” said Postecoglu.
“We’re pretty comfortable with the line-up we’ve had for the last few weeks. With people like Henrique, Massimo (Murdocca) and the others on the bench, we’ve got some handy weapons to throw on.”
Brisbane’s main threat will come from the ever inventive Thomas Broich who was brought into the squad at the beginning of the campaign. The 30 year old German has been superb, contributing six goals and 12 assists from his 31 games. Broich is ably supported in midfield by club captain Matt McKay who shone for Australia in January’s Asian Cup.
Central Coast meanwhile will continue to draw on youth following impressive seasons from teenagers Matt Ryan and Mustafa Amini. Goalkeeper Ryan only came into the side when Jess Vanstrattan, who was to be the club’s first choice between the sticks, was ruled out for the year after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament during a training session in August. At just 18 years of age, Ryan was expected to struggle in the A-League but has answered all his critics with some top drawer performances and picked up the Young Player of the Year award in the process.
Amini meanwhile is immediately noticeable due to his red afro, but his ability on the ball is just as exciting as his locks. The 17 year old is very highly rated and filled in well for Argentine Patricio Perez who was injured for much of the season. Perez’s participation in the final is in doubt so Amini may once again be thrust into the limelight as the team’s playmaker.
Despite scoring the goal that got Central Coast to the Grand Final, Adam Kwasnik might have to be content with a place on the bench behind fellow strikers Matt Simon and Daniel McBreen.
Mariners skipper Alex Wilkinson hopes it’s third time lucky for his side, having lost in both the 2006 and 2008 finals.
“A few of us have been in a Grand Final before and the Roar boys haven’t, that’s an advantage for us,” he said.
“They are on one of the best runs in Australian football history but it has to end sometime, hopefully it will on Sunday. As far as we’re concerned all the pressure is on them. No one expects them to lose, including the players. We’ve got to take it to them early and put them under pressure. They’ll have a packed house expecting them to win.”
Brisbane won the right to host the Grand Final having beaten the Mariners in the major semi final last month, and as of Friday there were just 1000 tickets left for the 52,500 seater Suncrop Stadium where the game will be played.
Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2. Matt SMITH, 4. Shane STEFANUTTO, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 6. Erik PAARTALU, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Massimo MURDOCCA, 9. Jean Carlos SOLORZANO, 10. HENRIQUE, 12. Matt MUNDY, 14. Rocky VISCONTE, 15. Matt McKAY (c), 16. Daniel BOWLES, 17. Mitch NICHOLS, 18. Luke BRATTAN, 19. Chris BUSH, 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 21. James MEYER, 22. Thomas BROICH, 23. Milan SUSAK
*four to be omitted*
In: Daniel BOWLES (promoted), Luke BRATTAN (promoted), Chris Bush (promoted), James MEYER (returns from injury)
Central Coast Mariners: 20. Mathew RYAN (gk), 2. Daniel McBREEN, 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 10. Patricio PEREZ, 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 12. Matthew LEWIS, 13. Michael BAIRD, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 16. Trent SAINSBURY, 18. Alex WILKINSON, 19. Matt SIMON, 22. Mustafa AMINI, 23. Adam KWASNIK, 24. Bernie IBINI ISEI, 30. Paul HENDERSON (gk)
*three to be omitted*
In: Matthew LEWIS (promoted), Pedj BOJIC (returns from suspension), Michael BAIRD (returns from injury)
Unavailable: Brad PORTER (knee – 4 weeks), Nik MRDJA (knee – season), Jess VANSTRATTAN (knee – season)
Brisbane Roar 2 (Solorzano, Barbarouses)
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Simon)