The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Brisbane beats Western Sydney 2-1 in extra time to claim A-League title
BRISBANE, Australia - BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Brisbane captured its third A-League title in four years, coming from behind to beat the Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1 in extra time in Sunday's grand final.
Brazilian striker Henrique scored the winner six minutes into the second period of extra time to clinch Brisbane's win that follows its triumphs in 2011 and 2012.
After finishing 10 points ahead of Western Sydney in the regular season, Brisbane entered the match on their home ground at Suncorp Stadium as strong favourites. They went a goal down after 56 minutes when Matthew Spirnovic headed Western Sydney into the lead and needed an 86th-minute goal to Albania striker Besart Berisha to force extra time.
Henrique's goal in the 113th minute won the match and left Western Sydney runners-up for the second straight year.
The Wanderers reached last year's grand final in their inaugural season, after winning the Premier's Plate for finishing top of the table at the end of the regular season. But they were beaten 2-0 by the Central Coast Mariners who assumed the title Brisbane had held in 2011 and 2012 and who lost to Western Sydney in this year's semifinals.
Western Sydney was determined to go one step further on Sunday and win the final to claim the one prize that eluded them in the first year of their existence.
They seemed to have taken a giant stride towards the realization of that aim when they scored first on Sunday but Brisbane steadily wore down their defences and were the dominant team late in the second half and through extra time.
Defender Spirinovic headed Western Sydney into the lead after 56 minutes when he punished sloppy Brisbane defending to head home a corner kick from Japan star Shinji Ono at the near post. Ono was playing his last A-League match after two seasons with Western Sydney and had a strong influence on the final until he was substituted in the 81st.
Brisbane showed no signs of being shaken by Spirnovic's goal and began to play with more coherence and purpose as the match progressed. They put steady pressure on Western Sydney, much of it created from midfield through Player of the Season Thomas Broich, and wore down the Wanderers, equalizing four minutes from the end of normal time.
Broich, who was also voted Player of the Final, took a free kick 40 metres out and steered the ball expertly to Berisha who headed into the top-left corner, beyond the reach of Wanderers keeper Ante Covic.
Brisbane carried that momentum into extra time and, after a scoreless first period, forced the decisive goal through more continued pressure. James Donachie won the ball at the back post and fired it into the middle of the box where Henrique, with icy calm, first chested it down before driving home the winning shot.
"It's a special moment," Henrique said. "This season hasn't been easy for me. It's hard to talk about that now but I'm very happy."
Berisha was also clinical in his finish, which helped deliver Brisbane a record third A-League title, its first under head coach Mike Mulvey.
"It's just amazing," said Berisha who was playing his last A-League match before leaving Brisbane to join the Melbourne Victory. "I've had such a great time here.
"With this team anything is possible. Always, to the end we fight together. The way we fight we deserve to win."
Brisbane's tenacity is demonstrated by the fact they have never scored a goal before the 84th minute in any of their grand final victories.
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(1 of 10 articles for today)11:42 AM 0
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