Going toe-to-toe with the Premiers

The one-horse race for the A-League Premiers’ Plate drew to a close on Saturday with a 1-0 win to Brisbane Roar over Melbourne Victory turning out to be the denouement, with three rounds still to play.

It looked set to end all square until Luke Brattan found space within his scoring range and struck in extra time.

Despite only a late goal to show for it, an enthralling contest was provided throughout as both teams sought to be positive and attack - unsurprising, but a breath of fresh air nonetheless. It was all the more admirable as neither side had their best XI’s on the park, with names like Jade North, Ivan Franjic, Besart Berisha, Adama Traore and Archie Thompson missing or coming off the bench.

Neither side’s approach changed and, as both are nigh unbeatable when at their best, at times they cancelled each other out. Victory started well, keeping Brisbane at bay while creating and stringing together forward passes through midfield. Mark Milligan, Adrian Leijer and Lawrence Thomas provided the strong spine early on and showed Brisbane that it was going to be a tougher task than they may have thought.

Victory’s speed did catch Brisbane out at certain times, but there were occasions where you thought a goal from the hosts was just moments away. Call it ‘the Victory way’ if you will, the blue and whites don’t do normal. It provided entertainment aplenty, as both sides were unrelenting in wanting to play their way.

Momentum swung wildly throughout but to neither team’s avail, not that it was for lack of trying. Both teams’ defences stood tall. For Brisbane it was ex-Victory man Diogo Ferreira playing his part as he made tackle after tackle and went toe-to-toe with Thompson, Kosta Barbarouses and James Troisi.

Brisbane’s midfield, much like its whole line-up, is well balanced and flexible. On Saturday, Liam Miller provided the classy touch, Matt McKay provided the legs and Brattan chipped in with the grunt work as well as some silk on the ball. That didn’t allow Tom Rogic much time or space to get into his game, a battle within the war on the night.

Victory picked up where they left off from their midweek ACL clash with Yokohama, staying resolute and more practical while not taking away from their strengths. Milligan led by example again, as he continued to make the crucial tackles and distribute the ball forward, it did help that the skipper was assisted by James Jeggo.

On the final Victory training session on Friday, it was interesting to see Jason Geria and Scott Galloway pulled aside for an extra drill with Thomas - who would play the ball out wide either long or short in their direction – as they went on to play the ball out quickly. Thomas wasn’t shy in aiming for just that on Saturday either. It was clear that Kevin Muscat was trying certain things and aimed to deviate somewhat. In an admirable effort, what let down the side was the decision-making in attack.

The winner was spectacular, especially given the timing and circumstances, but could have been avoided by Muscat’s men. Victory appeared to be tiring and had seven players scattered around the edge of the penalty area. As Brattan sauntered forward with no marker, the unsung midfielder took his time and fired a shot low past Thomas. Cue pandemonium and relief.

Whether or not you believe the ‘first past the post’ system is what the A-League should adopt, you couldn’t deny Brisbane their moment. They took charge early in the season, didn’t let go and remained head and shoulders above the rest. Thankfully the decision-makers at the club didn’t heed the #MulveyOut crew’s advice. Where is that banner now? One can only wonder.

For Victory, there would be a renewed belief within the playing group that they can go and win the title from here. After all, these best pure footballing teams in the A-League were close to inseparable and it took something special from Brattan to split them. Victory’s results over the past month have been far from awful. If Muscat continues to adjust what ought to be, it will hold them in good stead.



Katie, my compliments on another well written and balanced article. 'Four four two' or one of the other sites should use your talent more frequently. I really enjoyed reading it and it stands tall among some of the crap articles that are dished out at times. Keep up the good work.

It was a good read but not quite the analysis I was looking for. I missed the game on the weekend so I was hoping this would be a similar analysis to one of Tim Palmer's Breakdowns, but after the first two paragraphs it seemed to skim the top at best. Here's how it read to me:

Both teams are unchanged and unbeatable. Not sure why. Melbourne started well in the middle, with their passes and speed performing well, catching Brisbane well off guard. Whatever the Victory were doing, it wasn't normal but it was fast.

Brisbane also started well, as evidenced by momentum swinging wildly from side to side. Tactics? Yep lots of tactics. But what's undeniably clear is the balanced nature of their flexible squad. During the game Miller touched Victory players, Mckay bared his legs and Bratton was offering potato chips, much to Rogic's disgust.

Victory continued to play well, resolutely sticking to their strengths of something something. Ask last week when they played that other team and all tactics will be revealed.

It was interesting to see Jason and Scott pulled aside for a drilling with Thomas. It was tactical with short and long passes and wideness. It was well and happened a lot in the game. How did Brisbane respond? I like pie.

I know this post sounds sarcastic, but basically just pointing out that while it is a good read, I didn't find it in depth enough for an analysis piece (It's tagged under Analysis iirc). What was the key strategy behind either team, besides they attacked well? How was it mostly played through the middle, and were the flanks used at all? Who were the key battles between what were the defining moments? Did Roar dominate possession as they usually would or did Victory counter this effectively? The article does lightly reference some of this but not enough to get a clear picture of how the game panned out.

Anyway, enough of the constructive criticism. I know I could be completely wrong and that this actually isn't meant to be an analysis piece. Either way, thanks for a good read :)

Analysis? The good guys won.

That is all :-)