Brisbane Roar have all but cemented top spot on the Hyundai A-League ladder after they withstood a fast-finishing Melbourne Heart outfit to win 2-1 at Skilled Park on Saturday night, setting a new Australian club football record of 23 games without defeat.
Brisbane started the game with two changes from their 2-0 victory over Wellington on Wednesday, with coach Ange Postecoglou giving a well-earned starting berth to super sub James Meyer, replacing an injured Massimo Murdocca and Milan Susak replacing the Korea-bound Luke DeVere.
The changes didn-t seem to slow Brisbane down, taking the lead after only five minutes when striker Jean Carlos Solorzano outran a flat footed Melbourne Heart defence.
On the back of a deft through ball from defender Matt Smith, Solorzano used his pace to catch Heart skipper Simon Colosimo offguard before blasting the ball into the corner of the net, giving Brisbane an early 1-0 lead.
The Roar continued to pressure the Heart defenders and nearly doubled their lead in the 17th minute when Kosta Barbarouses broke free of his markers and sent a dangerous cross to the near post; however Nichols could not record a shot on target in what was a congested penalty area.
The visitors had their first real opportunity of the half in the 29th minute when John Aloisi found space and unleashed a well-timed strike that forced an acrobatic save out of Brisbane ‘keeper Michael Theoklitos, who was celebrating his 100th Hyundai A-League appearance.
Solorzano-s pace continued to ask questions of the Melbourne defence and the Costa Rican had two great chances to double his tally in the dying stages of the first half; yet on both occasions he could only push his shots wide of the post, leaving the Roar with single goal lead heading into the break.
Melbourne Heart looked to fight back after the interval and went close in the 46th minute when Aloisi had his close range headed effort saved by an alert Theoklitos.
However, it didn-t take the Roar long to regain control of the match.
Nichols took advantage of some slack Melbourne defending to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper, yet the experienced Clint Bolton had his measure and quickly closed down the shot.
Postecoglou-s gamble of giving attacker Meyer his first Hyundai A-League start paid off in the 63rd minute, when the 24-year-old took advantage of some slick passing from birthday boy Thomas Broich to hammer home from inside the penalty area, taking his tally to four goals in only three games.
The Roar came come to extending the lead to three only moments later when Kosta Barbarouses once again used his pace to break down the Heart defence, though Heart custodian Bolton came to the rescue yet again for the Melbourne side.
Melbourne made for a tight closing 15 minutes to the match when veteran Gerald Sibon capitalised on some quality ball control from Aloisi, blasting home from outside the box to make the score 2-1.
While the Roar continued to push forward in the closing stages of the match, it was Melbourne who went within inches of stealing a draw in the final minute of regulation time.
Aloisi could only hit his point blank shot into the arms of Theoklitos when presented with an opportunity in front of goal, giving Brisbane a much deserved win and a new Australian club football record.
Coach Postecoglou was overjoyed with his side-s performance.
“The players really stood up tonight and didn-t back away from any challenges, I was very proud of their efforts,” said Postecoglou.
“We had a number of players fighting injuries and other players away so it was great to see the boys step up.”
The Brisbane coach also made mention that his side deserved every accolade in what he referred to as an extraordinary season.
“The A-League is a very tough competition so it is credit to the players that we have been able to achieve what we have this season,” he said.
“There have been big expectations on the side for a number of weeks and the boys just keep performing week in and week out.”
Brisbane Roar 2 (Jean Carlos SOLORZANO 5-, James MEYER 64-)
Melbourne Heart 1 (Gerald SIBON 75-)
Skilled Park, Robina
Saturday, 29 January 2011
Local kick-off: 4.30pm
Referee: Matthew Breeze
Brisbane Roar line-up: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2. Matthew SMITH, 4. Shane STEFANUTTO (c), 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 6. Erik PAARTALU, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES (10. HENRIQUE 74-), 9. Jean Carlos SOLORZANO, 17. Mitch NICHOLS, 21. James MEYER, 22. Thomas BROICH, 23 Milan SUSAK
Substitutes Not Used: 12. Matthew MUNDY, 19. Chris BUSH, 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk)
Yellow Cards: Mitch NICHOLS 44-
Red Cards: Nil
Melbourne Heart Line-up: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Michael MARRONE, 4. Simon COLOSIMO (C), 6. Matt THOMPSON, 9. Gerald SIBON, 10. Wayne SHROJ, 11. Alex TERRA (22. Nicholas KALMAR 70′) 15.John ALOISI, 16. Aziz BEHICH, 17. Jason HOFFMAN (7.Rutger WORM 37-), 20. Josip SKOKO
Substitutes Not Used: 5.Michael BEAUCHAMP, 12. Peter ZOIS (gk).
Yellow Cards: Gerald SIBON 45-
Red Cards: Nil