Western Sydney Wanderers have reached the A-League grand final in their first ever season after defeating the Roar 2-0, with Shinji Ono and Dino Kresinger getting the goals
|By PADDY HIGGS at PARRAMATTA STADIUM
Western Sydney's dream season is set for one final thrilling chapter, after the Wanderers overcome Brisbane Roar 2-0 to reach the A-League grand final in their maiden season.
Set on its way by a Croatian hitman who had struggled to unholster his gun all season and sealed with a touch of brilliance from a Japanese master, the only downside in the win for the Wanderers was a needless red card to important winger Hersi.
Two poor tackles means he will miss next Sunday's grand final at Sydney's ANZ Stadium, where the Wanderers will face either Central Coast or Melbourne Victory.
But it failed to dampen the mood of the thousands of Wanderers fans among the crowd of 19,369 at Parramatta Stadium, with favourite Shinji Ono's outstanding second-half finish capping off Dino Kresinger's own earlier brilliance.
With the end-of-season abyss beckoning for the loser, it was little surprise that the match that the early enthusiasm did not necessarily match the quality of football.
Each team was dogged in their attempts to get the ball back when without it, ensuring the foul count climbed quickly in the opening stages.
But while the flow of the match was stilted as a result, there was nothing ugly about the Wanderers' opener.
Dino Kresinger had mustered the match's first shot on goal on 15 minutes, drawing a save out of Michael Theo. He did not waste his second opportunity just a minute later, superbly back-heeling Mark Bridge's cross at the tip of the six-yard box after Youssouf Hersi's darting run.
In the Roar's last visit in December, Kresinger - struggling to impress early in his Wanderers career - was roundly booed by his club's own fans. It would have felt like an echelon ago for the Croatian frontman after he found the net for just the second time this season, with his first name chanted down the stands at Parramatta Stadium.
Brisbane carved out a handful of half-chances, while Kresinger failed to make the right connection of a header in the 24th minute.
The Wanderers seemed to have more class to their build-up play, but Roar dug in through Mitch Nichols, captain Thomas Broich - having overcome an ankle injury to take his place - and Luke Brattan.
Broich seemed not to misplace a ball, while the Wanderers' own playmaker Shinji Ono - despite being cheered with every touch - was somewhat less influential.
Mark Bridge and Hersi were happy to shoulder their share of the load, however, even though the latter showed his wicked side with a poor tackle on Luke Brattan on 34 minutes that warranted a yellow card.
Bridge sought to gain some personal from his hard work when his drive was beaten away by Theo in the 40th minute, while the Roar could have had a case for a penalty when Yianni Perkatis bundled Brattan over as the Brisbane man forged into the area.
Kresinger missed a glorious chance to make 2-0 just two minutes into the second half when unmarked in the box, and Roar winger Ben Halloran - finally finding something like his range - nearly made him pay soon after when his long-range drive got Wanderers goalkeeper Ante Covic scrambling.
Opposite number Theo had to be even more aware when he saved from both Bridge and Mateo Poljak in the 55th minute, with a block from Perkatis' follow-up preventing the need for a triple save.
It was the visitors, however, who largely took control of the second-half's early stages, and Halloran drove straight at Covic just after the hour mark.
But the Roar's job was made harder when Broich limped off after 69 minutes, and just two minutes later his side were on the ropes and reeling.
Somewhat ironically, it was Ono who struck the blow. The Japanese controlled Dino Kresinger's flick-on with a feathered touch before curling his chip over an awestruck Theo.
The win lost some of its luster when a needless lunge by Hersi incurred a second yellow card and his dismissal. Berisha should have followed him as extra-time loomed for kicking out at Kresinger, but it mattered little to the result.
The Wanderers' night of delight was capped off when captain Michael Beauchamp lifted the Premiers' Plate after the final whistle, with the home crowd staying in their seats to celebrate.