Brisbane Roar may be the favourites to take out the Hyundai A-League 2012 Grand Final against Perth Glory but Head Coach Ange Postecoglou is warning fans he’s expecting a much closer contest.
The Roar booked their place in the Grand Final show-down courtesy of a 5-2 aggregate win over Central Coast Mariners in the major semi-final while the Glory did it the hard way – beating the same opponents in the preliminary final after consecutive wins over Melbourne Heart and Wellington Phoenix, including two successive 120 minute matches.
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While Brisbane are unbeaten against their Western Australian rivals this season, with a 4-0 win, a 3-3 draw and a 3-0 win, the Glory were the last team in Australian national league history to claim back-to-back titles having won the National Soccer League competition both the 2002/03 and 2003/04 seasons.
On the other hand, the match will mark the sixth Grand Final that Roar coach Ange Postecoglou has been involved in throughout his illustrious football career, having won twice as a player and twice as a coach at NSL club South Melbourne before last year’s epic decider against the Mariners.
Having not tasted defeat just yet and looking to make it six from six, Postecoglou said there wasn’t one defining way to prepare for the unexpectedness of a high-profile Grand Final.
“One thing I have learnt is that each Grand Final throws up its own unique set of circumstances,” he said.
“As a coach, you try and prepare for everything but usually something happens like last year or something happens that you weren’t expecting.
“It’s just how well the players deal with it but it’s a great occasion.
“I love being involved in Grand Finals, whilst I’ve had a decent run in them it’s been over a big span of time.”
But Postecoglou isn’t the only one who has a large amount of experience in title matches.
His goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos – Brisbane’s hero in last season-s penalty shootout – will make Hyundai A-League history as the first player in the competition to appear in four Grand Finals after representing Melbourne Victory twice in the league’s early years.
“I’ve been fortunate to play for two great sides and it’s a going to be a great occasion,” he said.
“This is my fourth in seven Hyundai A’League seasons so I definitely don’t take it for granted.
“For us, it’s just a matter of relaxing, enjoying it and making sure we play the same brand of football we-ve played all year.”
At the other end of the field, a lot of the pre-match hype has surrounded each club’s primary goal scorers and deservedly so with Brisbane’s Besart Berisha and Perth striker Shane Smeltz finding the back of the net 35 times between the two of them this season.
The difference, however, is their current form which has seen Smeltz score eight times in his past four outings while the Albanian is without a goal in his last six matches in both the Hyundai A-League and AFC Champions League.
However, Glory coach Ian Ferguson’s focus is much wider than one individual, highlighting a host of Brisbane players who had the potential to change the game.
His preparations seem deliberate after the fixtures between the two clubs in the regular season drew 13 goals, including ten in favour of Postecoglou’s men.
“They’ve got about five or six to be honest with you,” the former Rangers man said.
“They’ve got Henrique who can score goals, Broich who can create goals and score goals and Berisha up front who scores goals for fun.
“The Roar have scored ten goals against us in the past three games and that’s something we’ve been working very hard on this week.”
Suncorp Stadium will set the scene for a sell-out crowd as Brisbane attempt to replicate the same result as last year’s Grand Final as well as the same outcome the last time these two sides did battle at the same venue back in November 2011.
The Roar made national sporting history, producing a stellar performance to beat Perth 4-0 thanks to a brace each from Berisha and Issey Nakajima-Farran and securing a 36 match undefeated streak – the longest in any Australian code of football.