Roar triumphant as Broich delivers the dream

Surely it couldn't have been stage fright. After all, Brisbane Roar has plenty of previous experience when it comes to grand finals, having won in dramatic fashion in both its other appearances.

Surely it couldn't have been a sudden loss of form. Mike Mulvey's team was, admittedly, rusty a week earlier when it saw off the spirited challenge of Melbourne Victory in the semi-final, but that was a game expected to top them off and leave them in perfect shape for the title decider.

In a classic whodunnit the plotline is simple. The gumshoe detective eliminates all the obvious lines of inquiry and what he is left with, however unexpected or unpalatable, tends to be the solution to the crime.

And, for the first hour of this game at least, the answer to the Roar's riddle was staring it in the face, all over the pitch.

Western Sydney Wanderers were simply too big, fast, strong and dynamic for the hot favourites. The visitors pressed and harassed the men in orange whenever they got the ball, moving it on quickly themselves and posing plenty of problems in and around the Roar penalty area.

But Brisbane are not champions for nothing, and once again they showed the hallmarks of a champion team, that ability to lift their game and claw their way back into the contest when they looked dead and buried, as they have done in two grand finals before.

It was perhaps inevitable the Queenslanders would win in such circumstances, but for the first half of this two-hour contest it seemed that this grand final would be remembered more for its inversion of the footballing paradigm than for Brisbane's brilliance and audacity.

The Wanderers, all believed, would sit and counter, stifling the Roar's creative ball players and ensuring this would be a tight contest as they shut the game down before hitting their hosts on the break.

Brisbane, we all expected, would come out and take the game to its guests, moving the ball at a slick pace, passing with its trademark fluency and invention and inevitably finding holes in the Wanderers' well-organised rearguard.

But initially there was little of the slickness that has characterised the Roar in recent years,  the period in which it has set the on-field benchmarks for the rest of the league to follow.

Few of their big names, save for German star Thomas Broich, were on song in the first 60 minutes and it was he who came closest to making some mark for the Roar when he created space for himself before unleashing a wicked shot that flashed just centimetres wide of Ante Covic's post with the goalkeeper beaten in the first half.

It was the one unusual aspect of the first scoreless period that, while the Wanderers dominated, Roar had the two closest attempts on goal: Broich's drive and a cross cum shot from Ivan Franjic that struck the bar just before the interval.

Would that be a catalyst for a second-half revival? Would the break upset the Wanderers and throw them out of their stride?

It was only when Matthew Spiranovic got free at a corner and headed the Sydney side into the lead in the 56th minute that the Roar suddenly came to life. As the Wanderers, so adept at protecting a lead, dug in to hold on to what they had, Brisbane suddenly flicked the switch and took control of this game.

Besart Berisha, in his final game for the club, twisted and turned to set up a terrific chance but couldn't deliver. The striker then had a good opportunity from a Broich cross but could only deflect a header wide, while the German then fired just past Covic's post himself as the home team, sensing their destiny was slipping away, stepped up several gears.

In the end Mulvey's men found their mojo, but it was a close run thing. With four minutes remaining the  excellent Broich floated over a free kick,. Berisha - who else - escaped his marker and beat Covic with a downward header to take the game into extra time.

Surely then there could be only one winner. In 2011 Roar needed two extra time goals to force a draw with the Mariners and win on penalties. This time Henrique's 108th minute strike was enough to keep the trophy at Suncorp without the need for any shootout heroics.

The story Roar triumphant as Broich delivers the dream first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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