Wanderers fight back to earn draw against Brisbane

Western Sydney Wanderers came from two goals down to earn a hard-fought point in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Brisbane Roar in tough conditions at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

Nikola Mileusnic and Jack Hingert scored in quick succession to put the Roar two goals clear after 15 minutes, but Wanderers forward Nicolas Milanovic fired back just 33 seconds into the second half giving the visitors hope.

Brisbane had chances to put the result to bed but failed to do so, opening the door for the Wanderers to strike late through a glancing Marcus Antonsson header in the 88th minute.

The hosts could have leapt to the top of the Isuzu UTE A-League table with a three-point display, but instead the Wanderers retained their status as league leaders on the night Shae Cahill, son of legendary Socceroo Tim Cahill, made his Isuzu UTE A-League debut for Brisbane off the bench in the second half.

The 2-2 draw played out after a lengthy delay to kick-off following lightning strikes near Suncorp Stadium in the build-up to the game.

For the Wanderers, they hold top spot heading into the weekend – but head coach Marko Rudan will be eagerly awaiting an update on the health of centre-back and captain Marcelo who went down with what Rudan confirmed as an Achilles tendon injury post-game.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 01: Marcelo of the Wanderers leaves the field injured during the A-League Men round six match between Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers at Suncorp Stadium, on December 01, 2023, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Brisbane began on the front foot in a blistering start to the action – but it was the Wanderers who carved out the first opportunity of the night, with Lachlan Brook’s whipped shot off the right wing calling Macklin Freke into a diving save. 

Jack Clisby picked out Antonsson with a cross and the Swede headed wide as the visitors threatened to open the scoring – but then came a one-two punch from the Roar.

Mileusnic put Brisbane in front with what was the club’s 700th Isuzu UTE A-League goal. He was set free down the right by a masterful through pass by Antonee Burke-Gilroy, slotted between Western Sydney’s two left-sided defenders. Mileusnic did the rest, rifling a shot past Lawrence Thomas at his near post.

Two minutes later the hosts were two goals to the good. A sustained period of pressure in and around the box led to Joe Caletti playing Mileusnic toward the byline. His cutback cross was met with a first-time shot from defender Hingert, who swept home just his fourth A-Leagues goal in his 264th game.

“Hints of ‘Roarcelona’!” Exclaimed Paramount+ co-commentator Andy Harper as Hingert celebrated the second goal, harkening back to the days of Ange Postecoglou’s powerhouse Roar side of the mid-2010’s. 

“It’s beautiful football from the men in orange!”

The Wanderers trailed 2-0 after 15 minutes – and just after the half-hour mark came another blow when centre-back and captain Marcelo received treatment before being withdrawn from the game with an Achilles tendon injury.

Roar full-back Burke-Gilroy, who assisted the opener, was another first-half casualty, substituted soon after his side’s second goal with a hamstring injury.

The Wanderers needed a quick response after the break – and it took just 33 seconds for the away side to halve the deficit. Oscar Priestman, who came on for Marcelo in the first half, showed determination to step out of midfield and win the ball high up the park, and Milanovic pounced on the loose ball, taking one touch off his chest before firing a clean strike into the bottom-left corner.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 01: Oscar Priestman of the Wanderers competes for the ball against Jez Lofthouse of the Roarduring the A-League Men round six match between Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers at Suncorp Stadium, on December 01, 2023, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Mileusnic failed to restore Brisbane’s two-goal lead after catching Thomas well off his line attempting to cut out a ball down the right wing. Mileusnic rounded the keeper, then feinted to shoot to cut back around Thomas before firing toward goal.

Three Wanderers got back on the line and Clisby was perfectly placed to repel the close-range shot off his back and away.

Then came a penalty claim for the Roar. Henry Hore led the calls after his shot hit the hand of Jorrit Hendrix in the box; Hendrix had his arms dangling by his side, and the shot looked off target. Neither the on-field referee or VAR deemed the incident a penalty offence.

It was the same situation down the other end soon after, when Antonsson had a penalty claim waved away after his close-range effort was blocked by Roar defender Scott Neville. The ball deflected off the arm of Neville but, for the second time in quick succession, the officiating team waved play-on.

The Wanderers remained within striking distance until late in the game – and when Marcus Younis played a teasing cross into Brisbane’s defensive box, Antonsson rose to glance home the leveller.

Brisbane thought they’d snatched all three points back from the Wanderers when substitute Ryan Brownlie swept home a Tom Aldred header from close range – but the home side’s celebrations were cut short as an offside flag wiped the goal from the scoresheet.

Shae Cahill, who came off the bench for his Isuzu UTE A-League debut, also had a late opportunity to score for the Roar but had his big debut moment quelled by a superb Thomas save.