On September 21, 2003 a match took place in the English Premier League which was to have a marked significance on the rest of the season. Later dubbed “The Battle of Old Trafford,” the clash between Manchester United and Arsenal finished in a scoreless draw.
What was significant about the match was that Manchester United were awarded a penalty in the final minute. History shows that Ruud van Nistelrooy smacked his spot-kick against the crossbar and Arsenal went on to win the league undefeated.
A matter of inches. That’s all that can stand between success and failure in football, although the way Brisbane Roar are currently playing it’s hard to see anyone holding them scoreless, let alone going close to beating them. Perth Glory were certainly not in the hunt in their 4-0 defeat to the Roar on Saturday night and for all that’s been written about Brisbane’s stunning performance, there’s been little recognition of just how poor Perth were in that game.
Whispers abound Brisbane can go through the entire campaign undefeated but had Ruud van Nistelrooy hit his penalty two inches lower back in September 2003, there’d be no such comparisons to Arsenal’s so-called “Invincibles.”
So who can stop Brisbane Roar? On current form, seemingly no one. But the bounce of the ball will go against Ange Postecoglou’s team sooner or later and they start life as Australian record holders with a tricky looking fixture indeed.
Brisbane’s clash with Sydney FC next weekend is notable for the fact it takes place at WIN Jubilee Stadium in Kogarah. Better known as the home of rugby league outfit the St George-Illawarra Dragons, “Kogarah Oval” is the kind of old-school suburban ground slowly dying out in Australian sport. That makes it an attractive fixture for stadium buffs, although sadly Sydney’s imposing supporter group The Cove will take up residence in the northern terrace rather than on the famous grass hill fringing the eastern side of the ground.
And the Roar’s trip to Kogarah is not the only out of the ordinary venue they’ll be visiting in the coming weeks. They also take on Wellington Phoenix at the brand new Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin next month and crucially they do so on a Wednesday night – just five days after playing Melbourne Heart at Suncorp Stadium.
Then there are away trips to teams the Roar have embarrassed in Brisbane this season. Perth Glory. Adelaide United. Even two games against Gold Coast United at Skilled Park, including a much-anticipated Boxing Day showdown at the Robina venue. The Roar might have dominated the season so far but the rest of the campaign will be far from easy.
That said, there’s no reason to play down what Ange Postecoglou has achieved with his swashbuckling side. It shouldn’t be forgotten the two players who scored braces in the 4-0 win over Perth last weekend were both foreign recruits signed by Postecoglou at the start of the season. What the Roar coach has done is devise a system relying on team work rather than individual players and it’s a strategy which will fuel widespread success well into the future.
But to borrow an old cliché, ninety minutes is a long time in football. Plenty of tough tests await and they start with a tricky looking trip to Kogarah to face an old foe in Sydney FC desperate to put a two-game losing streak behind them.