Wanderers' loss a blow to reactive football

Brisbane's grand final win has bucked the recent trend of teams shutting down their opponents in big games

By Iain Strachan

Over in the football backwater that is Europe, teams are still getting success by playing 'negatively'. See Chelsea's bus parking par excellence at Anfield, Real Madrid's counterattacking assassination of Bayern Munich and the march to the UEFA Champions League final of an Atletico Madrid side playing one defensive striker in Diego Costa.

And while Barcelona are in deep crisis and questioning their identity, progressive, passing football is alive and well in the home of the round-ball game, Australia.

At least, that's the message to take from this year's A-League and its grand final.

Brisbane Roar, playing with the ball at their feet, topped the regular season standings by 10 points and then won the grand final.

Melbourne Victory passed their way to a late win over Frank Farina's reactive Sydney FC before coming up short against a superior incarnation of themselves in the Roar.

Western Sydney found a way past a disappointingly defensive Central Coast in the other semi-final.

The only real blow to attacking football in the finals series came in Gosford, when the previously free-flowing Adelaide United failed to turn it on against an exhausted Mariners team forced to play negatively at the end of a gruelling season. 

At Suncorp Stadium on Sunday it looked for a time as if the disciplined, reactive football of the Wanderers would win the day.

Fortunately for the Roar and purists everywhere, an injury to Nikolai Topor-Stanley upset Western Sydney's finely tuned machine and allowed Brisbane's stars to seize the game by the scruff of the neck.

Once Shinji Ono went off, the Wanderers were left without a player capable of tipping the balance back in their favour, as Aaron Mooy, Tomi Juric, Youssouf Hersi and Labinot Haliti, the other likely game-changers, struggled to make an impact when needed.

There were no such problems for the Roar, who have made a habit of dictating terms. Thomas Broich is the best in the business at influencing proceedings and he duly combined with Besart Berisha and Henrique to seal a deserved third title in four seasons for the Roar.

In doing so they struck a small victory for positive play that will almost certainly go unremarked upon outside these shores.

And don't expect arch pragmatist Tony Popovic to unveil a new-look, carefree Wanderers next season.

But the likes of Adelaide, Victory and the Roar will all be taking the game to their opponents next season, and for that reasons alone 2014-15 can't come around quickly enough.