Brisbane Roar fans saw a glimpse of the future tonight when a youthful side went down 1-0 in a courageous performance against likely Hyundai A-League Premiers Melbourne Victory at Suncorp Stadium.
Seven players under the age of 25 started the Round 26 fixture, captained by veteran defender Jade North who was making his 150th Hyundai A-League appearance, while two 18-year-olds, Abrahim Yango and Luke Pavlou, made their Hyundai A-League debuts off the bench late in the match.
The young team defied pre-match expectations and only missed out on a deserved point after referee Ben Williams awarded an unconvincing penalty in first half stoppage time, which Victory captain Mark Milligan converted from the spot.
Roar defender Daniel Bowles, who played one half at right-back and the other at centre-back, was named Man of the Match for his efforts throughout the 90 minutes which included keeping former Roar striker Besart Berisha goalless in his second match back at Suncorp Stadium.
“The boys came out here with nothing to lose and we can be very proud of ourselves,” Bowles said.
Roar Head Coach Frans Thijssen said the young players had done the club proud in fighting to the final minute in a bid to earn a point against the likely Premiers.
"To see what they did today is good to see for a coach," Thijssen said.
"It is a good sign that we have a lot of talented players behind the (regular playing) group and they showed today they can do a good job in the future."
Victory’s Fahid Ben Khalfallah fired the first warning shot of the match in the third minute and could have opened the scoring moments later, slicing wide from the top of the box.
Steven Lustica responded with Brisbane’s best effort of the opening 20 minutes when he had Lawrence Thomas beaten from a free kick, but the crossbar rescued the Victory ‘keeper.
Another close call fell in Victory’s favour 10 minutes later as Adam Sarota stole possession and fed Jean Carlos Solorzano, whose cross took a touch before looping over Thomas and brushing the far post.
Dimitri Petratos then inventively dipped one over the bar as Roar grew in confidence, but the young side was dealt a telling blow on the stroke of half time.
Referee Williams adjudged a foul on Carl Valeri by George Lambadaridis and pointed to the spot.
Jerome Polenz was introduced in place of Jade North at the break and the German defender wasn’t short on confidence, pulling off a pair of tidy tricks before trying a left-footed drive in the 64th minute.
Ben Khalfallah again wasted a good chance for the away side in the final 15 minutes when he blasted over the crossbar following a one-two with Gui Finkler.
That effort was sandwiched between the two senior debuts of Yango and Pavlou but the pair couldn’t assist in finding an equaliser, despite a rousing late push concluding with Petratos shooting into the clutches of Thomas.
Victory Head Coach Kevin Muscat also had special mention for the youthful Roar players. He said his side had never underestimated the revised Roar line up.
"The expectation from anyone that it was going to be easy to win against such a young side would have been naïve. It certainly wasn't within our group," Muscat said.
"We certainly knew it was going to be difficult."
The Roar squad departs Brisbane tomorrow morning for Tuesday night’s AFC Champions League fixture against Beijing Guoan in China before returning to Suncorp Stadium next Friday, 24 April to host Newcastle Jets (7.40pm kick-off).
Brisbane Roar 0
Melbourne Victory 1 (Mark MILLIGAN 45’+2)
Hyundai A-League 2014/15 Round 26
Friday, 18 April at Suncorp Stadium
Referee: Ben Williams
Brisbane Roar: 4. Adam SAROTA, 6. George LAMBADARIDIS, 8. Steven LUSTICA, 12. Jean Carlos SOLORZANO, 13. Jade NORTH (c) (2. Jerome POLENZ 46’), 14. Daniel BOWLES, 21. Jamie YOUNG (gk), 23. Dimitri PETRATOS, 26. Lachlan JACKSON (41. Luke PAVLOU 83’), 29. Patrick THEODORE (37. Abraham YANGO 72’), 34. Shannon BRADY
Substitutes not used: 20. Kofi DANNING, 36. Fraser CHALMERS (gk)
Yellow cards: 8. Steven LUSTICA 25’, 37. Abrahim YANGO 79’
Red cards: Nil
Melbourne Victory: 4. Nick ANSELL, 5. Mark MILLIGAN (c), 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 8. Besart BERISHA, 9. Kosta BARBAROUSES (10. Archie THOMPSON 64’), 14. Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15. Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 16. Rashid MAHAZI (7. Gui FINKLER 64’), 17. Mathieu DELPIERRE, 20. Lawrence THOMAS (gk), 21. Carl VALERI
Substitutes not used: 24. Scott GALLOWAY, 42. Lucas SPINELLA (gk)
Yellow cards: 17. Mathieu DELPIERRE 6’, 4. Nick ANSELL 44’, 6. Leigh BROXHAM 88’, 8. Besart BERISHA 88’, 10. Archie THOMPSON 90’
Red cards: Nil