Talking Points: Brisbane Roar 1 (6) Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (5) –...

Talking Points: Brisbane Roar 1 (6) Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (5) – Shootout needed for first elimination final

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A nail biting  6-5 penalty shootout win saw the Roar defeat Western Sydney in the opening final of 2016-17 on Friday night.

With lots of physical intent on show but little in terms of goals coming in the early stages, the Wanderers would find the initial breakthrough just before half-time when Brendon Santalab was brought down inside the box and Terry Antonis converted the resulting penalty. In typical fashion though, Brisbane would get back on level terms when Jamie Maclaren found the net after the break- with neither team able to break the deadlock before the 90 minutes.

Although Jaushua Sotirio would be sent-off for a second yellow card in extra time, the Roar could still not find the back of the net and a penalty shootout was necessary. Both sides would be successful with their first five attempts, yet Tommy Oar scored in sudden death and Jumpei Kusukami was denied by Jamie Young to see John Aloisi’s men into the final four.

Here are the main talking points to come from the match:

Goalkeepers shine at Suncorp

Tonight’s Man of the Match cannot go to any one player. Not a goal scorer, not an influential midfielder – but both goalkeepers, who pulled out blinding performances to keep their respective teams in the contest.

After only nine minutes Michael Theo had faced five shots and stopped four, including a remarkable double save to keep Brisbane from going down early.

At the other end, Vedran Janjetovic denied Brett Holman from point blank range, before tipping Brandon Borrello’s shot in stoppage-time onto the crossbar.

Theo was substituted after a collision with Terry Antonis and was replaced by Jamie Young, but the highest praise is deserved for both of these custodians and it was the substitute who saved Kusuakami’s attempted penalty to send Brisbane into the final four

Roar have the perfect blend 

One cannot help but admire Brisbane’s attributes across the pitch. They arguably hold the most balanced squad in terms of experience, youth, pace, power and flair.

The Roar boasts the speed of Maclaren and Brandon Borrello supported by the creativity of the experienced Holman and Thomas Broich, along with the guile and brute power in defence possessed by Luke DeVere and Jade North. It is even easy to see promising signs of determination and brimming confidence from young Joe Caletti.

Brisbane, with the players they possess, could take this finals series all the way and the coming years look very promising for Aloisi’s outfit.

Nothing ‘controversial’ about the penalty

Avraam Papadopoulos brought down Santalab in the box on the stroke of half-time, allowing Antonis to open the scoring from the spot.

Unsurprisingly this sent social media into a frenzy of calls for VAR intervention, but once a penalty is given it cannot be reversed by the decision of the video referee and it was a clear penalty either way.

Papadopoulos came around the blindside and into the back of the striker, who took his touch forward, before the Roar player’s right-boot clipped Santalab’s leg.

Western Sydney have the blueprint for a strong spine next season 

During 2017, Western Sydney have recorded the second most clean sheets and one of the better defensive records in the calendar year. It is no wonder, considering the work of their dynamite central-defenders Robert Cornthwaite and Jon Aspropotamitis coming into their own to bring in cover, confidence and a sense of calm at the back.

Against Brisbane, ‘Aspro’ was as relaxed as he has ever been in the most stressful of matches, amassing three clearances and interceptions while his development as a ball player was evident with a pass success rate of 90%.

Couple this with the four blocked shots and three clearances by his partner Cornthwaite,  and the Wanderers have already got one of three parts of their spine in the squad set for next season.

Santalab’s goals are important and Nico Martinez’s flair is pivotal, but these two brutes at the back are the unsung heroes of the team’s turnaround this season and will be just as vital next time around.

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