First half injuries to star forwards Besart Berisha and Alessandro Del Piero didn’t douse the fireworks at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night as Brisbane Roar dominated Sydney FC 4-0 in their first home match of the season to surge to the top of the A-League table.
While pyrotechnics welcomed the players to the pitch, the 21,000 strong crowd suspected an anticlimax when both Berisha and Del Piero left the contest midway through the first half with the scores locked nil-all.
However, the introduction of pint-sized Brazilian Henrique at the top of the formation sparked a ten minute three goal blitz from the hosts, effectively ending the contest prior to the half time break.
Captain Matt Smith opened the scoring with a strong header from a Thomas Broich free-kick on 37 minutes, before Henrique turned in a cross-goal header from Ivan Franjic to double the advantage two minutes later.
Local hero Matt McKay, who was a late starter following his return from Socceroos duty during the week, played in Jade North for the third goal prior to the half-time whistle.
The result was iced by Thomas Broich late in the second half, when he netted his first goal of the campaign with a first time left footed strike ten minutes from time.
Roar manager Mike Mulvey spoke of his pleasure at his side’s attacking return following Berisha’s injury, dismissing pre-season suggestions that back-up was thin for the prolific Albanian marksman.
“There was no talk from within the camp about there being no back up for Besart Berisha. I’ve got great belief in the players we got,” Mulvey said confidently after the match.
“It’s not very often you get your two centre backs scoring goals. It was great to see Matty and Jado get those goals,” he explained further.
“I actually heard some wag in the crowd shout to Jade North, ‘Get back you lazy…oh, good goal.’ ”
“All joking aside we need people to pitch in with goals and we got four different goal scorers tonight and that’s very pleasing.”
Mulvey said he was particular pleased with the impact of Henrique, who is still returning to full fitness following pre-season injury.
“He’s early in his preparation is Ricky, but I think you’ll agree with me he created a bit of mayhem out there.”
“He’s nowhere near fit, we were planning to bring him off with fifteen to go, but then Lukey (Brattan) got a knock so we brought him off and Ricky battled through.”
Mulvey said he didn’t expect Berisha’s hamstring injury to keep him out of the side for long, “We will have it scanned on Monday, but think it’s only a tweak.”
The result marks only the third time Roar have started their A-League season with back to back wins and captain Smith said he was pleased with the perfect return from the opening two fixtures.
“To get maximum points so far is very pleasing. More pleasing than that is that we know in ourselves that we didn’t perform that well last week but tonight I think our performance was far better,” Smith explained.
“Still not right on a couple of things, but it just goes to show that when we are on our game we can certainly be ruthless.”
Smith also afforded a smile when asked about his opening goal, “Like the gaffer said, it’s pleasing to be able to chip in. That’s four in four years for me, hopefully I get some more.”
Mulvey called on the evening’s record crowd – Roar’s largest ever for their opening home fixture – to return for their next home game against Melbourne Heart.
“I think the biggest statement to come out of it is that the 21,000 plus come back next time because hopefully they’ve enjoyed what they’ve seen and they can come and lend their support to us in two weeks time.”
The four goal margin lifts Roar into top spot on the A-League ladder, leapfrogging last week’s leaders Adelaide United on goal difference ahead of Sunday’s Round 2 fixtures.
Roar fly to Victoria next weekend to face Melbourne Victory at Etihad Stadium, before Melbourne Heart travel to Brisbane for Roar’s next home game in a fortnight’s time.