BRISBANE Roar have produced an incredible fightback from 2-0 down with less than five minutes to play to win the A-League Grand Final 4-2 on penalties over Central Coast Mariners at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
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In an epic A-League decider, the Premiers refused to say die after trailing 2-0 deep into extra-time, sending the Suncorp Stadium crowd into raptures with a 117th minute goal to Henrique and a headed goal to Erik Paartalu with the very last touch in the added period.
The Roar couldn't clench the result in regular time, despite dominating the contest, and their dream appeared to be over when Adam Kwasnik and Oliver Bozanic both scored in the first half of extra time.
Michael Theoklitos was at his brilliant best in the shootout, guessing correctly three times out of four, and making two spectacular saves at full-stretch to seal the result.
Ivan Franjic, Matt McKay, Erik Paartalu and Henrique were the penalty scorers for the Roar, showing true composure.
The Roar's win takes their miraculous undefeated streak to 28-games, and the circumstances of the match will likely never be forgotten by the 50, 168 in attendance – the fourth highest crowd in A-League history.
The fairy-tale ending could not have been better scripted by the Roar, who survived the season undefeated at home, but for the Mariners there was only heartbreak, after falling to their third Grand Final defeat.
The Roar's seemed perpetually on the cusp of moving in front, but the Mariners stood firm, with man-of-the-match goalkeeper Matt Ryan simply sensational, and looked to have ambushed the hosts with their start to extra-time.
Brisbane skipper Matt McKay was at his best for the Roar, orchestrating every play from the midfield, while the Mariners had many big performers, with Kwansik the best of the forwards and deserving of his goal.
Kwasnik was a genuine threat from the outset, and had the first real opportunities of the match, with headed attempts from corners in the seventh and 11th minutes, the second of which had to be cleared from the line by McKay.
Brisbane's scratchy start began to show the first signs of smoothing at around the 20 minute mark, as the Mariners slowed their relentless pace and the likes of McKay and German sensation Broich were able to increase their involvement.
In the 24th minute, Brisbane had their best opportunity of the second half, when centre-back Milan Susak timed his run on a long corner from Broich, skirting the defence, although he fired his unmarked header fractionally wide of the post.
Kwasnik continued to trouble the home side, and in the 28th minute he went close again in surprising fashion, directing a 40 metre attempt fractionally over the bar, in a worthy attempt at catching Theoklitos off his line.
The Mariners seemed to have lost their counter-attacking rhythm, but in the 36th minute they had a prime opportunity to open the scoring, as Michael McGlinchey released Kwasnik down the flank, and the striker played in the perfect cross, only to see Matt Simon squander their best opportunity of the half.
But Brisbane continued to claw their way on top, and Mitch Nichols rounded out the half with a pair of opportunities inside the box, including one strike from a failed Ryan clearance that rattled the crossbar.
Despite drizzle turning to hard rain at the beginning of the second half, neither side looked to be reducing their output.
Solorzano had the first real chance of the second stanza, but after taking the ball on the back of a brilliant build-up from Kosta Barbarouses and Mckay, his powerful shot from 10 yard out hammered into Ryan and ricocheted high in the air and back into play.
The pressure continued to well up as Brisbane stayed camped outside the Mariners' penalty box, piling on chance after chance and corner after corner, with Paartalu, Solorzano and Nichols all looking all but certain to break the deadlock.
Mustafa Amini's largely uneventful stint for the injured Patricio Perez came to an end in the 61st minute, with Graham Arnold opting for veteran John Hutchinson.
In the 72nd minute, Postecoglou made his first substitution, surprisingly opting to send Henrique on for Barbarouses and not Solorzano. Arnold made his second substitution moments later, brining on Daniel McBreen for Simon.
With 15 minutes remaining in regular time, the contest began to slow for the first time, with a hush of anticipation falling over the Suncorp crowd.
Murdocca entered the fray for Brisbane in the 82nd minute, replacing Nichols, as Brisbane continued to push for an opener, and the Mariners stayed anchored in their half.
Solorzano and Broich had opportunities in stoppage time, but the Mariners finding their way inside the Roar penalty box for the first time in the half caused the greatest tension before extra-time was signalled.
Substitute teenager Bernie Ibini-Isei had the chance to become a hero after he broke free in the 92nd minute to go one-on-one, but his rocket-like right-footer was brilliantly deflected wide by Theoklitos.
Ibini-Isei was shut down in similar circumstances just moments later, and a follow up effort had to be tipped over the bar by Theoklitos.
From the following corner, Kwasnik produced the breakthrough, pumping the ball in off postman McKay, after Theoklitos was caught out of position attempting to parry the ball clear.
McKay went close to finding the equaliser after taking a ball in the area from Murdocca, but again Ryan was up to the task.
Brisbane were pouring everything into their chase for an equaliser, and the forward commitment saw the Mariners capitalise, breaking the hearts of the Suncorp crowd with a second extra-time goal.
Ibini-Isei sent the visitors forward on the counter with a long ball to Kwasnik, who re-gathered his smothered shot and dished to Bozanic, who tapped the ball into the back of the net.
The Roar were back on the offensive for near the entirety of the second period of extra time, but Ryan's goal remained impenetrable, with even Broich missing a point-blank opportunity.
Finally Brisbane found their way through with only three minutes remaining in the contest, as Solorzano broke down the flank and squared to Broich, who laid off the ball for Henrique to fire in.
Henrique had a second shot snaffled and then the miraculous happened, with Brisbane earning a corner in the last minute of the game after a penetrating run from Rocky Visconte, Paartalu rising above to head home the goal with the very last touch as he sent the crowd out of control.
In the shoot-out, the Mariners shot first, with Hutchinson successful. This was followed by successful attempts from Brisbane's Franjic, Mariner Wilkinson and Paartalu himself, before Theoklitos made the first save, guessing correctly to deny Daniel McBreen.
McKay then scored to send Brisbane ahead, and then Theoklitos made another superb save deny Pedj Bojic as Henrique then stepped up to seal the deal.
Brisbane Roar 2 (Henrique 117', Paartalu 120')
Central Coast Mariners 2 (Kwasnik 96', Bozanic 103')
Brisbane: 4 (Franjic, Paartalu, McKay, Henrique)
Central Coast: 2 (Hutchinson, Wilkinson)
Crowd: 50,168 @ Suncorp Stadium
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