Two goals in four minutes saw the NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers pull off a sensational come-from-behind win and bring their record against the reigning champions to three wins from three matches.
The Wanderers- two second half goals saw them peg back Brisbane Roar-s 1-0 first half lead to take the match 2-1 and cement themselves nine points clear in fourth position on the Hyundai A-League table.
Coach Tony Popovic praised his players for believing in themselves and upping the intensity in the second half to stage their first ever come-from-behind wins.
Popovic said when the Wanderers asserted themselves in the midfield; he knew the goals would come.
They fell to Mark Bridge in the 64th minute and Youssouf Hersi in the 68th minute.
“The players are doing great,” Popovic said.
“There are a lot of firsts at this Club.
“The first game, the first win, the first goal and today was another step forward for us to come from behind and it just shows the character and belief of this squad and it has been a great response since our loss to Central Coast.
“That is six points from six points on two tough away trips and we look forward to going home now.”
Popovic said his team knew they had to improve in the second half after Roar put together their best 45 minutes for many weeks.
“The message (at half time) was ‘we have got to play better, we have got to keep the ball well-,” he said.
“It is one thing getting the ball well and another thing sitting off players and we felt we needed to pressure the ball a bit better in midfield and once we gained control of the midfield in the second half we started to create opportunities and started to look a threat in the final third.”
Asked if the Wanderers were now title contenders after seven wins, one draw and one loss in nine matches, Popovic said the team would not get ahead of itself.
“I believe I can win any game,” he said.
“Every game we go into we try and win. Whether we can win the league then, we are still a long way off that.
“It was an important win and we are fourth on the table and hopefully we can continue this good run we have got going. “
In the first half, the Roar handled the terrible pitch conditions better than the visitors who could not produce their usual intense high pressing defence.
One of the visitor-s better chances early occurred in the seventh minute when Shinji Ono was played through by striker Labinot Haliti and forced goalkeeper Michael Theo into a risky confrontation outside the box.
Theo just managed to clear the ball from Ono.
On the back of dominant possession, Roar pushed forward at will from then on.
German midfielder Thomas Broich let shots off on goal in the 16th and 17th minutes, one missing left and the other just over the crossbar.
In the 22nd minute, Luke Brattan crashed through Wanderer defenders into the box on the back of a good ball from Besart Berisha.
The ball careered off Brattan in the challenge and straight to Mitch Nichols who slotted the goal in from close range.
The Wanderers were on the back foot for the rest of the second half as Brisbane tried to assert their advantage and through a series of side-to-side moves involving Ben Halloran, Broich and Berisha, they were unlucky not to score again.
The Wanderers bounded out of the sheds and showed the intensity they missed in the first stanza and are now becoming renowned for.
Haliti grazed the crossbar in the 51st minute and Bridge missed a good chance wide after being played on by Youssouf Hersi one minute later.
In the 64th minute, Jerome Polenz swerved in wide from the right and faked to cross only to slide a neat low pass to Bridge who was in front of goal just outside the box.
He calmly slotted a right foot shot through the outstretched hand of Theo and into the right corner of the net.
Bridge had scored the Club-s first ever goal in Round Four at Suncorp during the Wanderer-s first win last year.
Four minutes later, Dino Kresinger, only just on for Haliti, headed a ball into the path of an offside Ono who had the good sense to leave it for a flying Hersi.
Hersi cleverly jinked to fool two defenders before belting a left foot shot low inside the near post, leaving Theo no chance from six metres.
It was his second goal for the Club.
Roar were shell-shocked and as if on cue, Berisha went on a rampage at the officials earning him a yellow card.
Captain Shane Stefanutto got another card a few minutes later and the game locked like it would deteriorate with Roar losing all discipline.
The Wanderers kept coming and through some lovely work from Aaron Mooy, Ono found himself free in the box with only the keeper to beat in the 92nd minute.
But the marquee man-s jink and turn could not shake the defence as they arrived in numbers and another goal went begging.
Defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley had another fantastic game for the Wanderers defusing some dangerous raids and providing brick wall-like cover on several occasions.
The Wanderers- next match is against Melbourne Heart on Saturday January 26 at 7.45pm at Parramatta Stadium. Kids are allowed in for free.