Match Preview: Brisbane v Wanderers

The Western Sydney Wanderers will look to preserve their spot on top of the Isuzu UTE A-League Men’s table when they travel north to face an improved Brisbane Roar on Friday night.

The Red & Black go into the match in confident mood after a gritty 1-0 win in the Sydney Derby away from home; Zac Sapsford’s second half strike against his old club was enough for the Wanderers to claim a third straight win at the home of their eternal rivals.

Compared to their previous victory at the ground – a swashbuckling 4-0 win – this match was a much more gritty affair where the Wanderers had to remain stout as a defensive unit and disciplined as their opponents pushed for an equaliser, and coach Marko Rudan will take encouragement from his team’s ability to see out the result despite losing star attacker Brandon Borrello after just 17 minutes due to injury.

Despite Borrello facing a potential spell on the sidelines, there is no shortage of quality up front to replace him; Lachlan Brook should be fit to return this week after missing the derby to concussion, Sapsford could get a first A-League start after his well taken goal, and Dylan Pierias showed composure to assist Sapsford’s winner.

Even 18-year-old Marcus Younis had a promising cameo off the bench on Saturday, his pace and skill causing problems for the home team.

At the other end of the pitch, the defence led by captain Marcelo and top goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas will look to keep a fifth clean sheet in six games; the side has the best defence in the league so far this season having only conceded two goals.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 25: Dylan Pierias and Marcelo of the Wanderers celebrate victory during the A-League Men round five match between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers at Allianz Stadium, on November 25, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

It will not be an easy task against a Brisbane Roar side experiencing a promising start to the season under new coach Ross Alosi.

They reached the Australia Cup final, where they recorded a win over the Wanderers in the quarter-finals, and currently sit fourth on the A-League table after back-to-back wins.

Their most recent success came against Perth Glory, where second half goals from Henry Hore and Jay O’Shea secured a 2-1 win at Suncorp Stadium.

Hore and 18-year-old Thomas Waddingham have been highly impressive for the Roar in both league and cup competitions, and the strong Wanderers defence will have to be on their game to keep them quiet; both scored in the Roar’s 4-2 win over the Wanderers in Australia Cup action back in September.

On that day the Wanderers hit the front thanks to Marcus Antonsson, and Jack Clisby scored a wonderful equaliser to make it 2-2, but two goals in eight minutes saw the Roar advance to the semi-finals.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – SEPTEMBER 16: Jack Clisby of the Wanderers is tackled by Jack Hingert of Brisbane during the Australia Cup 2023 Quarter Final match between Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers at Perry Park, on September 16, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Despite the Roar finishing in eighth last season, they managed to hold the Wanderers to 1-1 draws in both meetings, both times coming from behind to secure a share of the points.

Brisbane’s issue’s last season came up front, with the side only scoring 26 goals in 27 games, yet Aloisi seems to have remedied that problem as the Roar have 10 goals after eight games, the same as the Wanderers.

There are signs of the Queenslander’s being a work in progress, demonstrated by a second half collapse in the Australia Cup final and a 5-2 defeat away to Wellington, where the Roar conceded three unanswered goals after levelling the game in the 53rd minute.

It should be a highly intriguing match where a relatively young and fearless Brisbane team go up against a disciplined and difficult to break down Wanderers side, but the Wanderers will look to use the momentum from their derby success to propel them to a first win in Brisbane since 2021 and maintain their place at the top dogs of the A-League in season 2023/24.