Friday, April 15 from 7.35pm at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane – watch on Fox Sports
FOR the second consecutive week, the Brisbane Roar ($2.10 @ Crownbet.com.au) and the Melbourne Victory ($3.30 @ Sportsbet.com.au) clash, only this time it’s winner takes all and the loser goes home till next season.
The two teams met at AAMI Park last weekend, but with both sides assured of finals action, the match lacked a definitive moment – ending 0-0.
The Roar blew their chance to win the Premier’s Plate, but still earned a home final against last year’s champions.
The one big positive coming out of the match for the Roar was the performance of Tommy Oar, who started in his first match for Brisbane since February.
The star Socceroo was arguably the best player on the pitch before being withdrawn at the hour mark, earning himself A-League team of the week honours in the process.
Roar manager John Aloisi said Oar adds something special to the team.
“With Tommy I know he can play anywhere — the left, the right, in the centre of the midfield … he drifts in between the lines,” Aloisi said.
“He’s such a dangerous player and he gives the team options.
“He’s picked up our style of play very quickly and that’s not surprising because he’s a very intelligent footballer.”
Incredibly, this will only be the second time the two teams have faced each other in the A-League finals, with Brisbane notching a 1-0 win in the 2013/14 season.
Berisha free to play after successful appeal on Tuesday night
The big news in the lead up to the match is the availability of Victory striker Besart Berisha.
The 30-year-old Albanian successfully had his two-match suspension reduced to one after the A-League’s independent committee upheld the Victory’s appeal.
The panel deemed that missing half of the Wellington Phoenix game and being suspended for the final round was a sufficient penalty.
This means the Victory front man is now free to play against his old side in the cut-throat elimination final match.
Berisha admitted in the aftermath he was unsure as to how the appeal would fare.
“I was very scared because you don’t know what will happen,” Berisha said.
“I’ve never had this [tribunal] before and I wasn’t sure what would happen.
“I was in good confidence but scared as well because this is the game football players play to be in, the finals.”
Understandably, Berisha’s teammates are buoyant about their chances on Friday night after the confirmation that their 2016 top goal scorer will be free to play.
Victory key midfielder Kosta Barbarouses said Berisha’s inclusion will provide a huge lift to his side.
“We’re really delighted to have Bes available for us, it’s a huge asset having him in our team,” Barbarouses said.
“I guess he’d be pretty happy, he’s never one to be to be happy to miss a game, and he’ll be fit and raring to go.”
The addition of Berisha is a vital one for the reigning champions, who face the onerous task of toppling a team who has never lost a finals match on home soil.
Odds provided by Sportsbet.com.au
Match result: Brisbane Roar win in regulation time – $2.15
First goal scorer: Jamie MacLaren – $6.00
Correct score: Brisbane Roar 2 Melbourne Victory 1 – $9.00
It looms as a fascinating contest.
The last time the two teams met at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane smashed the Victory 5-0. The scars of that heavy defeat will no doubt still reside within the visitors.
We are not anticipating a similar capitulation by Kevin Muscat’s men, but it is hard to see how they will be able to travel to Queensland and topple the Roar, who are unbeaten at home in A-League finals history.
Expect the Roar to progress through to the semi-final stage.
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