A gutsy Brisbane Roar salvaged a brave 2-2 draw with leaders Perth Glory in a Hyundai A-League thriller tonight.
Three days after failing to put away an under-manned Beijing Guoan in the AFC Champions League, the shoe was on the other foot as a 10-man Roar survived a relentless onslaught from the Glory in the final 14 minutes to secure the point after young left back Corey Brown was sent-off for a professional foul.
The draw maintained the Roar's undefeated run since the Asian Cup break but the result allowed Friday night winners Melbourne City to secure sixth spot in what is fast shaping as a two-team race for the last finals berth.
But the Roar could easily have walked away with all three points against the Glory after taking a 2-1 lead with two goals in just three minutes midway through the second half.
One came from a likely source, striker Jean Carlos Solorzano, while the other was a brilliant surprise from captain Matt McKay, his first for the season.
Solorzano came on as a half-time substitute for Andrija Kaluderovic and continued the rejuvenated goalscoring form he showed before being injured three weeks ago. He swept into the six-yard box in the 59th minute to clinically put away a pinpoint cross from right winger Brandon Borrello.
Three minutes later McKay showed he is not just a midfield workhorse. He picked up the ball on the left and brushed off two strong challenges from Perth opponents before burying a low shot into the far side of the goal.
An upset looked on the cards, but the red card changed the game. Perth equalised eight minutes after Brown was marched and peppered the Roar goal in the final minutes and could easily have snatched the win but for some desperate defence, good goalkeeping and a little luck.
“At 2-1 I thought we were in control and going to win . . . it was disappointing to see the red . . . I believe it was the correct decision . . . and in the end we had to fight to keep the point,” said Roar interim Head Coach Frans Thijssen.
“He (Brown) is young and he will learn from this. But overall I was very pleased with how hard the team worked. We were on top in the first half, we were attacking a lot more and scored two great goals.”
The Roar certainly lived up to Thijssen's pre-game pledge to attack Perth, who have been at the top of the league for 15 weeks.
The Roar's first clear-cut chance came in the 17th minute when nice passing between Thomas Broich and Henrique gave the Slippery Fish a good look at goal but he curled his shot over from the edge of the penalty box.
But in a pointer to the end-to-end action that was to be a feature of the match, the home team was soon on the counterattack and made the visitors pay.
A long ball to Andy Keogh sent the lanky import racing into the penalty box but a desperate tackle by Jade North dispossessed the Irishman.
The Glory pounced on the scraps and the ball was swung to the far right where an unmarked Chris Harold squared across the face of the goal for a simple tap in by Danny DeSilva.
Perth started the second half with consecutive corners and Keogh had another powerful shot saved by Roar keeper Michael Theo, but it was Brisbane who had the first clear chance of the half.
Short passing on the edge of the box between Broich and Solorzano released McKay on the left and his low hard cross to the opposite corner of the goal was well saved by Glory keeper Danny Vudkovic. And the move was an indicator of things to come.
Four minutes later the equaliser was netted and three minutes after that the Roar were ahead thanks tio McKay.
But once the Roar were reduced to 10, Perth turned the screws and put the Brisbane defence under repeated pressure. The home team eventually forced the game to 2-2 when a long-range shot by Dragan Paljic from the left hit the woodwork and rebounded to Glory defender Dino Djulbic who buried his shot into the net.
From then on a desperate Roar could do little more than hang on and hope.
“We just ran out of time to bury them,” said Glory coach Kenny Lowe.
Perth Glory: 1.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 5.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 6.Dino DJULBIC, 9.Andy KEOGH, 10.Nebojsa MARINKOVIC, 14.Chris HAROLD (15.Jamie MACLAREN 56'), 19.Josh RISDON, 20.Daniel DE SILVA (17.Mitch NICHOLS 67'), 21. Scott JAMIESON, 23.Michael THWAITE (c), 27.Dragan PALJIC.
Substitutes not used: 11.Richard GARCIA, 28.Denis KRAMAR, 30 Jordan THURTELL (gk)
Yellow cards: Rostyn GRIFFITHS 45'.
Red cards: Nil
Brisbane Roar FC: 1.Michael THEO (gk), 2.Jerome POLENZ, 5.Corey BROWN, 9.ANDRIJA Kaluderovic (12.Jean Carlos SOLORZANO 46'), 10.HENRIQUE (23.Dimitri PETRATOS 65'), 13.Jade NORTH, 15.James DONACHIE, 17 Matt McKAY (c), 18.Luke BRATTAN, 22.Thomas BROICH, 28.Brandon BORRELLO '(33.Luke DeVERE 79').
Substitutes not used: 4. Adam SAROTA, 21.Jamie YOUNG (gk).
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Corey BROWN 76'
Referee: Ben Williams; Assistant Referee 1: Tim Mihevc; Assistant Referee 2: Josh Mannella; Fourth Official: David Bruce.