Tuckerman: It's time to fire up for Finals Series football
In his latest column for Brisbane Roar, freelance football writer and Mane Event contributor Mike Tuckerman sets the scene for Sunday's massive Elimination Final...
The last time Brisbane Roar hosted a home final – or at least one fans could actually attend – it turned out to be one of the most dramatic games in A-League history.
That was the night Michael Theo injured his leg in extra-time, allowing Jamie Young to come off the bench and save Jumpei Kusukami’s spot-kick as the Roar downed Western Sydney Wanderers 6-5 on penalties following a frankly ridiculous 1-1 draw at Suncorp Stadium.
It was ridiculous for several reasons, not least because after Wanderers midfielder Terry Antonis had converted a first-half penalty, he gave The Den the classic ‘shush’ gesture that almost always comes back to haunt players who go the early crow.
He might not have looked so foolish had Theo not already made a miraculous one-handed save from Brendon Santalab and generally kept the Roar in the game with a virtuoso goalkeeping display. Jamie Young may have gone on to become a Brisbane Roar legend – and his save from Kusukami no doubt helped in that regard – but there’s a reason Theo won five A-League championships with two different clubs.
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And winning the cChampionship has to be the mindset Warren Moon’s men take into this Sunday’s Elimination Final with Adelaide United. Last weekend’s 2-0 defeat to Sydney FC was disappointing, but it’s not like the home side didn’t boss proceedings in the second half. On another day the result might have looked very different.
Couple that with the fact Brisbane Roar are unbeaten in their last 10 home Finals Series games – we won’t count last season’s COVID-enforced 1-0 ‘home’ Elimination Final defeat to Western United at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta – and there’s every reason to feel optimistic about this blockbuster clash.
The Roar trounced the Reds 3-1 in Redcliffe back in January, with Dylan Wenzel-Halls scoring twice and Jay O’Shea blasting home a long-range special in one of the team’s best performances of the season. And while Adelaide gained a modicum of revenge with a 1-0 win at Coopers Stadium last month, there’s a growing sense that Moreton Daily Stadium is one of the toughest venues in the competition for away teams to come and play.
Why wouldn’t it be? There’s not a bad seat in the stadium and with fans sitting right on top of the action – particularly along the western and eastern sidelines – it’s much easier to generate a hostile atmosphere in Redcliffe than it was at the cavernous Suncorp Stadium.
That’s going to come in use against an Adelaide United side that contains plenty of fiery customers of their own, none more so than former Roar midfielder and current Adelaide skipper Stefan Mauk. Along with former Roar assistant Ross Aloisi, the Reds are home to a couple of familiar faces who would no doubt love to depart Redcliffe with a win.
But if Finals are the epitome of big-time football, there are few players clad in orange primed to make a statement of their own. Jay O’Shea is the man who makes the Roar midfield tick week after week, but it’s Riku Danzaki who feels like he’s ready to explode on a national stage. Somehow the Japanese youngster remains a bit of an enigma outside of Queensland, but the 21-year-old is a big-game player if ever there was one.
And make no mistake, this game is as big as it gets. Purists will tell you they don’t want Finals at all, but it’s always Finals football that draws the biggest crowds and often produces the most dramatic encounters to boot. Without Finals football there’d be no Orange Sunday, no Young save from Kusukami and no Thomas Broich knocking out Melbourne Victory in stoppage time in front of a delirious Roar home crowd.
So drink in the occasion and enjoy the game. These are the afternoons we live for. There’s nothing to fear from Finals football but the thought of failing to leave it all out on the pitch, so you can be sure that Warren Moon’s men will be fired up for this one.
Brisbane Roar fans should be fired up too. If home ground advantage ever counts for anything, it has to count on Sunday. It’s time to remind Adelaide United they’re a long way from home. And with a spot in the Semi Finals on the line, it’s up to everyone in Moreton Daily Stadium to find their voice and truly make a difference.
You can read more of Mike Tuckerman’s columns over on The Roar sports opinion website at www.theroar.com.au/author/mike-tuckerman