Brisbane Roar will rely on a run of home games in the closing rounds to keep alive their Hyundai A-League finals hopes after a 1-0 loss to Melbourne City tonight.
The defeat saw sixth-placed Melbourne City skip eight points clear of the Roar as the two clubs battle for what most see as the only undecided place in this year’s Finals Series.
The Roar still have a game in hand – against Melbourne Victory at home on Wednesday, April 15 – but can’t afford to drop many more points if they hope to reel in City and keep alive their chances of defending their Championship crown.
The Roar have five games remaining in the regular season and will play four of them at home – starting with Central Coast Mariners at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.
Experienced defender Jade North insisted the Roar could still make the finals in a post-match interview.
“We have to rely on other results now,” he said.
“But we just have to play well and pick up the maximum points.”
But luck doesn’t seem to be running the Roar’s way right now.
After losing right fullback Jerome Polenz to a muscle injury in the warm-up, Roar had to turn to North who had just returned to the squad after two weeks out with a groin strain.
The Roar reshuffled their defence with Daniel Bowles (also in his first game back after a month out) on the right, Shane Stefanutto and North in the centre and right back Jack Hingert on the left.
And the new-look back line was on the back foot after just five minutes.
As a cross came in from the left, former Socceroo Josh Kennedy out jumped Shane Stefanutto and headed down.
Roar ‘keeper Jamie Young got a hand to the ball and parried it away but Argentine Jonatan Germano was on hand to tap into the open goal for what turned out to be the match winner.
Needing a win to stay in touch with the top six, the Roar fought back and created several good chances as they competed well in the remainder of the first half.
Jean Carlos Solorzano, back in the starting side ahead of Andrija Kaluderovic, had a powerful shot blocked in the 22nd minute then skied another attempt over the bar seven minutes later.
In the 39th minute, Brandon Borrello had a strong run down the right and fired a low shot to the near post but City keeper Tando Velaphi saved well while minutes before the break Dimitri Petratos had a good look at goal but skewed his shot wide right.
The Roar continued to push forward after the break as they searched for an equaliser.
Velaphi made a spectacular save early in the second half to block a near-post attempt from Petratos while another powerful shot from Borrello was blocked by the City defence.
City also had chances fall to Harry Novillo and Erik Paartalu as the game opened up.
The extra space suited speedy winger Borrello who broke down the right again in the 62nd minute and squared to Devante Clut but his shot was blocked by City’s Jack Clisby in a desperate rearguard action.
In the 70th minute, defender North showed the growing desperation to level the scores when he hit a shot from near the halfway line that had Velaphi back-pedalling before the ball dropped into the netting atop the goal.
As the clock ticked down Clut got into the box and set up Brattan but his powerful strike was deflected away for a corner.
Two minutes later, off a free kick, the pair combined again with Clut’s swerving shot being saved by Velaphi.
The home side then shut the game down content in the knowledge they probably only need a handful of additional points to play finals football ahead of the Roar.
Melbourne City 1 ( Jonatan GERMANO 5′)
Brisbane Roar 0
Hyundai A-League 2014/15 Round 23
Saturday, 28 March at AAMI Park
Referee: Kris Griffith-Jones
Melbourne City: 5. Erik PAARTALU, 10. Robert KOREN, 13. Jonatan GERMANO, 14. James BROWN (9. Harry NOVILLO 30′), 16. Joshua KENNEDY (8. Massimo MURDOCCA 56′), 18. Paulo RETRE, 20. Tando VELAPHI (gk), 22. Jack CLISBY, 23. Mate DUGANDZIC (15. David WILLIAMS 50′), 24. Patrick KISNORBO (c), 27. Kew JALIENS
Substitutes not used: Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 7. Iain RAMSAY.
Yellow cards: James BROWN 27′, Erik PAARTALU 64′, Jack CLISBY 72′, Harry NOVILLO 85′
Red cards: Nil
Brisbane Roar: 21. Jamie YOUNG (gk), 3. Shane STEFANUTTO (c), 8. Steven LUSTICA, 12. Jean Carlos SOLORZANO, 13. Jade NORTH, 14. Daniel BOWLES, 16. Devante CLUT, 18. Luke BRATTAN, 19. Jack HINGERT, 23. Dimitri PETRATOS, 28. Brandon BORRELLO
Substitutes not used: 2. Jerome POLENZ, 4. Adam SAROTA, 9. ANDRIJA Kaluderovic, 26. Lachlan JACKSON, 36. Fraser CHALMERS (gk)
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil