Archive for March, 2011

Emphatic victory, captaincy, an agonising anniversary and a get well soon

March 22nd, 2011 No comments

Stoke City sent out a crisis what crisis message with the impressive 4-0 defeat of Newcastle.  We were feeling decidedly edgy before the game.  Nervous glances at the league table led us to believe we could easily get dragged into trouble.  While there are still many points to be won and lost, and we need to stay focused on reaching safety… we blew away the cobwebs with a win every bit as comprehensive as the scoreline suggests.  The result was never in doubt from the moment Jermaine Pennant sneaked in to put us 2 up straight after the interval.  From that point we played with renewed viguor and refreshing confidence.  Fuller’s late goal simply gave the socreline a more realistic complexion.  Surprisingly three of our goals came from open play.     It’s pleasing that after a season of wasted  free kicks we score two in two games.  At the final whistle the Geordies looked totally demoralised.  I don’t doubt that this emphatic win is partly due to the bout of cup fever the city is currently absorbed in.  The whole idea  of a cup run being at the expense of league form has never seemed a valid  notion.  For a club like us it injects the season with fresh impetus and generates excitement.  Premier league safety and a possible cup final.  What else could we want from our football team?  What a difference two wins can make.

That Stoke are yet to take part in a goalless draw  is one of the quirkier statistics of the season.   If we got our first 0-0 of the season in the next game against Chelsea few Stokies will be complaining!

Our win was crucial because it’s unlikely we’ll get much from our next two games against Chelsea and Spurs.  It’s a relief to have the points in the bank.  Wolves victory over Aston Villa was a surprise as was WBA drawing at home to Arsenal, a game in which both teams can reflect on two points dropped.  Wigan’s  win over Birmingham keeps them alive and West Ham will be delighted to leave White Hart Lane with a point.  There are many twists and turns ahead and it’s getting complicated.  Gerard Houllier must be starting to suffer sleepless nights as will Alex McCleish.  When the season climax arrives we can hope our sleepless nights are because of the hullabaloo surrounding our first FA Cup Final appearance!

Sunday March 27th marks the 40th anniversary of our first FA Cup semi final against Arsenal.  Back in 1971 the cup held nearly as much prestige as the league did.  As a result the semi was a huge game.  In his excellent autobiography, Denis Smith describes the game in detail.  Smithy states that  for much of the game we felt we had reached the final.  We were seconds away from one of the most memorable moments in our history.  To have a seemingly unassailable lead snatched away at such a late stage is agonising even now.  Whatever happens on April 17th I hope none of us feel the agony Smithy and his teammates felt 40 years ago.  On the subject of this years  Semi final I’d have preferred to play on the Saturday, but after waiting 39 long years another day is tolerable!

David Luiz was colossal for Chelsea against Manchester city.  He ran the defence and initiated moves, using his heading prowess to give his team the lead.  The one big black mark was the avoidable yellow he recklessly acquired in injury time.  One question which must be asked is why were Manchester City so inexplicably negative?  Whilst understanding the need for a contingency plan against a side of Chelsea’s undoubted quality, couldn’t they have been just a bit more adventurous?  Given the money spent on the team they should have been able to go to Stamford Bridge with plans to attack and try to win the game.  Another noticeable aspect of the match is that Fernando Torres still hasn’t scored for Chelsea. 

Attention turns to international fixtures now, in particular England’s European Championship qualifier against Wales.  Reaching tournaments is a no win situation for England.  Qualification is expected and quickly forgotten but failure incurs the wrath of a nation.  Combine this with the fact that there are still many people who, mind bogglingly, expect us to win each tournament we participate in.  While my English feet are firmly on the ground, Wales is game we can confidently expect to win.  Should we fail to do so our presence at Poland and Ukraine in 2012 will be jeopardised and it’s hard to imagine Capello surviving the fallout.

 Does John Terry’s re-appointment as England captain really justify the media interest?  Fabio Capello must feel bewildered by the  pandemonium surrounding the decision.  The primary responsibility of a captain in football is to step forward at the start of the game to call ‘heads’.  Or perhaps ‘tails’ as the case may be.  Good teams have 11 captains (football cliche 231) so why the irrational level of interest and analysis?  It’s just another episode in the bloated hyperbole drenched soap opera that the England team has become.

It was a shock to learn that Bryan Robson, an England captain of an earlier vintage, had undergone an operation to remove a cancerous tumour on his throat.   Few could doubt that he was the heart and soul of both Manchester United and England for several years.  He was the only England player to emerge from the calamitous 1988 European Championship campaign with any credit.  Roy Keane, his successor in the Man Utd engine room, was never the all round player that Captain Marvel was.  Get well soon Robbo. 

It was sad but not so much of a shock to read that Ex Argentina coach Cesar Luis Menotti has undergone lung surgery.  One of  the abiding memories of the 1978 and 1982 World Cups was Menotti anxiously sucking  cigarette after cigarette.  This familiar image overshadows the fact that he built an exciting team.  His Argentina  were filled with flair that was balanced with a sturdy defence.  Perhaps the biggest testament to his management is that he was strong enough to omit a stroppy youngster named Diego Maradona from the squad…. much to the distress of Maradona himself and the Argentinian media.  Daniel Passarella holding the trophy aloft in the River Plate Stadium vindicated Menotti’s decision, and ensured his place in history.   Good luck Cesar Luis Menotti. 

Milan’s defeat at Palermo gave both Inter a priceless opportunity to get within touching distance of Milan.  They seized that opportunity by edging past Lecce 1-0…. a lacklustre performance but at this stage of the season you ask how not how many.  Despite the lethargic showing you can be assured that Inter are delighted to be only one point behind their neighbours.  Their next league game is the Milan derby.  Each team will know that victory will provide pole position in the struggle for the Scudetto.  It’ll be a huge occasion.  It was a good week for Inter.  In knocking Bayern Munich out of the Champions League they emerged victorious from a thrilling encounter.  Leronardo’s hyperactive touchline presence added to the spectacle.  The Brazilian has rejuvenated his team.  So impressive is the turnaround it’s hard to believe it’s the same club that Benitez left with  abject indignity.

Ending 39 years of hurt, brilliant orange and stepping down from the perch

March 15th, 2011 No comments

For the first time since 1972 Stoke City are in the semi finals of the FA Cup.  I watched it in the pub and it was a good turnout for a  Sunday night midnight KO.  The cup has retained enough magic to persuade people to go to work with a hangover!  We started the game at a furious pace and it was refreshing to be able to keep the ball in the attacking third.  If the nature of our play was a refreshing change, the source of our first goal was very familiar!  The Delapidator providing Huthwho responded with another powerful header.  As our very own Berlin wall wheeled away in delight that could be the first time we’ve ever seen him smile!  Perhaps the most pleasing thing about our performance was the way we bounced back after experiencing adversity.  Piquionne’s goal shouldn’t have counted but the baffling thing is how none of the officials saw the handball.  We immediately tore into them after the break and were (fortuitously in my opinion) awarded a penalty.  One question that has to be asked is why Etherington took it when Higginbotham was on the pitch?  It was great to hear the crowd’s support for Ethers afterwards…an example of  the unity we need.  That miss could have proved fatal but we continued to grind away and it Higginbotham who regained the lead for us with a sweetly struck free kick.  For one awful moment I feared the ref hadn’t seen the ball cross the line but there was nothing to worry about on that score.   All that remained was to cling on for 27 more agonising  minutes.  A few near misses came and went.  Then some close misses came and went.  When the fourth official held up the board to say four minutes of injury time it might as well have said 40.  The minutes ticked painfully away and eventually we became FA Cup semi finalists.  Shortly after the end of the game a mate came to tell me we’d drawn Bolton in the semi.  This was the thrill of a lifetime.  I’m not one to prematurely evaluate the quantity of poultry.  Any team you face will cause you problems but we all know, without being arrogant, that it could have been much worse.  Will we ever have a better chance to reach an FA Cup Final?  I don’t doubt Bolton fans will be asking themselves the same question.  Hopefully this will bolster our league form too.  We really do have the taste of  Wembley in our nostrils!

TEAMS CAN’T TOP US  FLOODS CAN’T TOP US.  So said the banners from the River City Crew… an exuberant group of Brisbane Roar fans.  The occasion was the Grand final of the Australian league, AKA the A-League.  Since the league started in 2005 many of the headlines have been grabbed by financial issues. It’s frustrating at times to spend time discussing receivership and takeovers when corners and free kicks are a  more favourable conversation topic.  Thankfully, the football grabbed the media attention at the weekend.  Rightly so.  Seeing over 50,000 packed into SuncorpStadium for a football match brought a lump to the throat.  A noisy sea of orange with a pre match performance by Brisbane band Regurgitator.   It was a special occasion even before the teams  walked out onto the pitch.  Fittingly, the game itself was a footballing classic.  Brisbane’s opponents were Central Coast Mariners, a team who lack the style and panache of their opponents but play with purpose and tactical discipline.  Central Coast had  most of the early exchanges but Brisbane played their way into the game with intelligent possession football.   Half time was 0-0 but it was a gripping encounter.  The second half consisted  of  huge rainfall and Brisbane hammering the Central Coast goal.  Attack after attack yet each wave of orange was stifled by increasingly impressive defending.  Full time was 0-0 which led us into extra time.  As extra time started it felt as if we’d been in the stadium for hours and hours, the 4pm kick off time was a distant memory.  But kick off time  came and it really was 4pm again because Central Coast were the better side.  This time however they scored.  The vast majority of the crowd were stunned into silence.   Central Coast smelt the disbelief in the home crowd (and team) and had the audacity to score again.  This wasn’t meant to happen.  As the game was played out to a background of  fluorescent orange silence I reflected on the Liverpool team of 1988.  Despite being a great team they found the FA cup final  just one game too many.  They had the style and the skill but couldn’t  raise themselves one last time to secure the double… remember too they were up against a solid underrated opponent in Wimbledon.  For Liverpool 1988 see Brisbane 2011. As I sat pondering this and wondering if any of the hundreds streaming out of the ground would return next season, Brisbane broke and scored.  the orange came to life again!  There was two minutes to rescue an entire seasons work.  Piling forward a late corner was won, the final chance to save the season.  The corner was deep and a Brisbane head met it to send it into the top corner of the net.  Pandemonium.  The ferocity of the ensuing mental was raucous and heartfelt.  The whole stadium embracing itself with joy!  Impressively, despite the hive of activity, not one drop of my beer was spilt, that’s class!  With three minutes of extra time left Brisbane were 0-2 down but had again bounced back to save the unbeaten record and take us all into a penalty shootout.  There was no doubt Brisbane would win the shootout.  And they did 4-2.  Central Coast were devastated.  All that remained was to see captain Matty Mckay lift the trophy that resembles a toilet seat (honestly) then to the pub for some serious celebrating!  Then on to watch an FA Cup quarter final between Stoke and West Ham.  Two games in one day and they both worked out right!  I love football.  HAPPY DAYS!!!

Against Milan  Spurs played with admirable discipline. Discipline they have lacked for so long.  Throughout the tie Milan had far more possession yet created little worthy of mention.  In the second half at White Hart Lane Spurs seemed to accept Milan’s territorial superiority and responded accordingly by sitting deep.  Pato was a livewire, making darting runs across the width of the frontline but Ibrahimovic was subdued.  For a player of his stature to be so uninvolved in a game…. when he’s the kind of player you need to turn the game your way  was baffling.  Not that Arry will be complaining.  For many years Spurs have had talented sides but often fallen short because of careless defensive errors.  Twoseriously big  European games against Milan and two clean sheets.  In the competition’s current format Arry is the first English manager to take a side to the quarter final.  This is Arry’s finest hour.

The last decade has been awash with media speculation regarding Alex Ferguson’s retirement and successor.  There have again been suggestions that this could be his last season.  One report suggested that if Man Utd win the league again he’d be ready to abdicate.  Of all the words devoted to the subject in the last ten years, the idea he’ll bow out in May is by far the most plausible.  He once stated his finest achievement was “Knocking Liverpool off their f#^#ing perch” Should his team  stay on top they will have won 19 titles to Liverpool’s 18, by far the most poignant indicator of their absolute dominance.  It would be entirely appropriate to step down from the perch.  Fools learn by their mistakes, wise people learn from other peoples.  Ferguson will be aware of the pitfalls of retirement.  Bill Shankly died with a broken heart.  A heart broken from seeing his beloved Liverpool go onto greater success without him.  He had to suffer the indignity of Liverpool’s directors asking him to stop turning up at the training ground….  his regular appearances  undermined Bob Paisley  because the players used to call Shankly ‘boss’.  Brian Clough managed two seasons too long.  In his autobiography Clough states clearly that the right time for to leave was after the 1991 FA Cup Final defeat to Spurs.  Of course it’d hurt to go out on a defeat but Wembley was a fitting stage for a manager of his stature to leave the game.  Instead Old Big Ed signed out on relegation and degrading tabloid tales of excessive drinking and a catastrophic Shredded Wheat advert.  Ferguson is different.  His passion for the game is obvious but football isn’t his entire life.  As well as football he has an interest in politics.  One thing which frustrates him is that visiting all the places he does professionally means there are few opportunities to  experience them fully.  There is still a keen interest in learning to play the piano properly.  In addition to these interests he has a family he’d  love to spend relaxing time with.   Alex Ferguson may well choose to step down from the perch.  As he approaches 70 he’d  find the bottom of the cage an invigorating place.

Making the difference, surly egos, and a big Sunday with beautiful football

March 8th, 2011 No comments

As with most runs of poor results at a football club, Stoke City’s current situation isn’t anything that a win or two wouldn’t put right.  But there are times when you look at our form and wonder where a win could possibly come from.  We aren’t quite at crisis point yet, but if this continues we soon will be.  Despite a bright start at West Ham on Saturday, we conceded a goal as soft an any you are likely to see, then fell apart immediately.   Confidence visibly drained from our players, one moment we were carrying the game forward the next we were merely fulfilling a fixture and waiting for the final whistle…. and when you give up that early in a game that’s a lot of time to play out.      Any lingering hopes we had of salvaging something from the game departed a few minutes later when we politely allowed them to double their lead.  In the second half we were a bit more positive, looked a bit more willing and tried to drag ourselves back into the match but we all knew it was a hopeless task.  Because of a slightly brighter second half some of us might feel slightly aggrieved, but we got what we deserved from the game.  As a result we slide ever closer to the relegation zone, seemingly bereft of any variation to our  moribund play.  Since January we have de-generated from a pragmatic team to an out and out long ball side and modern defences  deal with that threat with the minimum of fuss.  The positive qualities of recent years have faded away, the spirit and drive which underpinned our rise have fizzled out to leave us  exposed.

Our seasons ambitions from now are straight forward.  From whispers of Europe in the build up to Christmas, at the start of March it’s actually about scraping the points together to assure safety.  In the close season we have the chance to draw breath and regroup but major surgery is required.  Amongst other things, the entire philosophy of the team has to change. By this time next year we need to have different styles of players at the club. This can be partly achieved by offloading some of the squad who are clearly not going to play a role in the first team, many of which are merely clogging up the wage bill.  We must start to build a  balanced squad, too many of our players are the same.  Of course you do need grafters and grinders and tactical discipline, but without an element of craft and technical skill those positive qualities prove fruitless.  Any team needs balance.  On Sunday there was a  perfect example of how crucial it is to have  variation in a team ……Liverpool v Man Utd, Liverpool on top but Man Utd were holding firm. They were unlocked by some brilliant skill by Suarez. A quality player ‘making the difference’.  Defenders hate nothing more that players running straight at them…especially in the box. We drastically lack that difference  making factor.  Acquiring that vital factor can be achieved, but ruthlessness is required… and getting the right balance could prove an expensive exercise.   But first things first, we need to ensure safety. 

Fortune favours the brave.  The Juventus v Milan game was 0-0 at half time.  Realising that, despite their illustrious heritage, Juventus simply aren’t very good,  Allegri withdrew Kevin-Prince Boateng and threw on Robinho to really go for it and get the points.  The change worked.  Gattuso’s winning goal was a scuffed shot the keeper should have saved but when alls said and done, Milan won an away game and edged three points closer to their 18th Scudetto.   The game could have fizzled out into a 0-0 draw but some ambitious alterations have put Milan in a very strong position.  They are the kind of victories that titles are built on.  One point becomes three, and it must be a big psychological advantage to know that Inter’s second half obliteration  of Genoa meant no dent was made in their lead in Serie A.  Fortune favours the brave.

Louis van Gaal will be leaving Bayern Munich at the end of the season.  He’s a notoriously difficult man to get on with, I can’t help wondering if the powers that be have just taken this slump as an opportunity  to oust him.  Bayern chairman Karl Heinz Rummenigge isn’t known for peace and love either, the meetings must have been a fest of surly egos!  As it stands Bayern have a great chance of reaching the European Cup quarter final, would they feel foolish lifting the trophy after squeezing the gaffer out?   Where will Van Gaal turn up next season?  

I watched The Damned United again.  A splendid film.  It encapsulates the earthy unglamorous working mans club essence of 1970’s football clubs perfectly.  Like many dramatisations, if you remember that it’s not the entire absolute truth a pleasant time is had.  I was however struck by the dragging out of the tiresome cliche at the end that ‘Brian Clough is the best manager England never had’.  That gets stated almost as fact yet nobody can know for sure whether  he’d have been successful or not.  My own view is that he wouldn’t have proved any more or less successful than Ron Greenwood who was appointed instead.  It also stands out that while Bobby Robson became a national treasure, the man who actually did it… Sir Alf Ramsey, is so often overlooked.  We know that he was the manager on July 30th 1966 but he is rarely discussed with affection.  It’s a sad fact that the most successful England manager there’s ever been (ever will be?) seems to be way down the order when the England team is discussed.  The notion of the best manager England never had gets more attention than the best manager England ever had… and Alf’s achievements deserves better than that. 

Sunday will be a big one.  A big day with two big games.   In the afternoon at 4pm it’s the A-League Grand Final between Brisbane Roar and Central Coast. It’s LIVE on SKY in the UK KO at 6am!!  If Brisbane play anything like they have done this season it’ll be well worth getting out of bed for.  37,000 tickets had been sold by Monday lunchtime.  It will be good to get the whole city turn orange for a week.  It’s pleasing to see that football is making headlines here for a change, and if any team is worthy of headlines it’s the current Brisbane team.  Finishing the job on Sunday will lead to long loud celebrations.  Come on Brisbane!!

Then at midnight on Sunday, the post match celebrations (optimistic eh?) will be brought to a halt as there’s our FA Cup quarter final against West Ham to agonise over.  Reflecting on recent form it’s hard to really imagine Stoke being able to win this game.  But we can cling to the adage that the form book goes out of the window for cup games (football cliche 781) and remember that surely  we have to play well again at some point!  It’s feasible that victory in the FA cup will actually  lead to an upturn of form in the league.   Winning is just a great habit to have and there is a lot at stake.  Last year  at this stage we knew that we had little chance of knocking Chelsea out but this is one entirely feasible.   We might not get this chance for another 39 years.  COME ON STOKE!!

Infuriatingly craftless, shameless nostalgia, Brisbane’s excitement

March 2nd, 2011 No comments

Arsenal away wasn’t the catastrophe some of us feared.  After going behind so early it seemed we could easily be on the wrong end of a thrashing.  Admittedly, we were fortunate to only be one down after the first fifteen minutes but we grew into the game and stifled their constant stream of creativity and went in 0-1 down at half time.  Then in the second half something strange happened… Stoke City attacked and put Arsenal on the backfoot.  Instead of bleakly clinging on to nothing and seemingly defending a 0-1 deficit we got forward and gave our illustrious opponents something to worry about. It was such a refreshing change to give one of the big boys a headache.  That final defence unlocking ball was lacking but periods of sustained pressure in the the half of an opponent so famous was a thrill in itself.  The real lesson to be learned from that second half is that we now know it is possible to play away to top quality sides and have a plan to attack.  With a bit of luck and some opportunism we can get something.  When we face Chelsea there is no excuse not to have a gameplan with attacking potential.  The other good thing now we reflect on Arsenal away is that we know we don’t have to go there again this season!  So plenty of reasons for optimism as we faced WBA at home…. yeah right.

WBA’s late equaliser was slightly offside but to focus solely on that is to dismiss some crucial factors.  Throughout the game our attacking play was so shapeless we were unable to craft any worthwhile opportunities.  OK, we did put them under pressure for much of the first half but balls lumped forward time after time were dealt with in relative comfort by the WBA defence.  WBA were much more physical than we could have expected and were up to the challengeof the Britannia battering ram.  When the battering ram lacks subtle accompaniments it de-generates to an artless lottery.  After huffing and puffing we took the lead through a well worked corner (what was Carson actually diving after?) and that goal should have been a signal to shake off the inhibitions, attack and finish them off.  As Woy made changes to salvage something and leave space at the back we should have been able to exploit those areas and snatch a points assuring second.  Instead, we got pegged back and eventually got what we deserved by conceding a late equaliser.  It’s only the brilliance of Begovic that secured us a draw.  Had we emerged from this game empty handed we’d have nobody to blame but ourselves.  Before the game we were 7   points from 40.  Now are 6 points away from that magical mark so it wasn’t a complete tragedy but, as far as forward play is concerned, it is infuriating to look so creatively hopeless.  Carew and Jonesy are too similar and chasing flck ons can be easily dealt with by any competent defenders, especially after the 328th time it’s been tried.  It makes no sense to start the one player we have who can carry the ball into the box and turn defenders inside out on the bench.   If we play like we did against WBA and West Ham played like they did against Liverpool we’ll get hammered (excuse the pun) and talk cup semi finals will be forgotten.. perhaps for another 39 years.  

Our attention on Wests now shifts from the Bromwich Albion to the Ham United variety.  In fact, West Ham will dominate our thoughts for a fortnight, the league game followed the week after by an FA Cup quarter final.  Any cup tie with West Ham will evoke memories of our titanic League Cup semi final en route to winning the trophy way back in 1972.  The first leg at home was a deflating 1-2 defeat. We’d confidently expected to take a lead to Upton Park but after taking an early lead found ourselves pegged back at 1-1 by a Geoff Hurst penalty.  The point has to be made though that their winner from Clyde Best was an absolute beauty.  These were the days before away goals proved decisive so all was not lost.  The second leg saw us 1-0 ahead and as the game was heading for a replay, a communication error between Pejic and Banks led to West Ham being awarded a heartbreaker penalty.  It was Geoff Hurst again to take the penalty, he  smashed it to the top corner and Gordon Banks, the greatest keeper ever, whose reflexes miraculously managed to tip Hurst’s piledriver over the top and our Wembley dreams were rescued.  Banks himself has described that penalty save as the best he ever made…. even better than this one…  Banksy’s miracle set up a replay (League Cup replays… remember them?) at  Hillsborough.  A tense affair which we had the better of but couldn’t conquer the hammers keeper Bobby Ferguson… goalkeepers making great saves was a characteristic of the tie!  The 0-0 stalemate led to another replay, this time at Old Trafford.  I know several West Ham fans here and some of them still detest Terry Conroy for injuring Bobby Ferguson after half an hour!  England World Cup legend Bobby Moore replaced Ferguson in goal and just to add to the thrills and madness of this rollercoaster of a cup tie, his first job was to face a penalty from Mick Bernard… and he saved it… only for Bernard to score the rebound! By half time the score had twisted and turned it’s way to 2-2 and anything could have happened at that point.  Shortly after the interval Terry Conroy restored our lead and the crowd must have been wondering what would happen next. What did happen next was that no more goals came next and we held on.  Finally, after 109 years of trying, Stoke City had reached a major final.  If the events of winter 1972 are anything to go by we know one thing for certain about the forthcoming encounter….  if we succeed we won’t be doing it the easy way!  The only question is about whether our nerves will be able to stand it all! 

After spending some of last weeks blog typing excitedly about the first set of European Cup knockout matches it was obvious the second lot would be as turgid as they were.  If a pack of clubs allegedly amongst Europe’s elite can churn out a pile of dross as rubbish as that they should all pack in football to go and dig roads.  

Arsenal’s long journey to a trophy continues.  The League Cup wasn’t their priority but losing after being such overwhelming favourites has got to hurt.  It might not make Arsenal feel any better but it’s healthy to diversify the trophy winning gene pool.  Man of the match was Ben Foster, making several impressive saves to keep Birmingham level.  This is a special achievement for Alex McCleish.  Could he be a contender to replace Alex Ferguson when he eventually decides to spend his time playing golf and cleaning his garage out?  The real calamity of the match was the linesman who made the inexplicable error of calling Bowyer offside early in the game.  Had the lino not made such and indefensible mistake Szczesny would have to have seen red for taking Bowyer down and the game would have been very different indeed.  The scale of the error is all the more glaring when you realise the deep defender playing Bowyer on was next to the lino.  While Richard Keys and Andy Gray are on Talksport promoting tiles or haemorrhoid cream they should take note that the official in question was male.

After winning the first leg of the finals 2-0 Brisbane Roar reached the A-League Grand Final with a thrilling 2-2 draw against Central Coast.   It was a fantastic game which contained some great stylish football, a gutsy fightback, some drama and the right result!    0-2 down at half time was a real shock as the game was meant be a little more than chance to meet friends for a beer and a chat.  Brisbane displayed the character and the stylish silky football that has led to them beiong the greatest team in the history of Australian football by bouncing back to draw 2-2.   Grand Final, 4pm Sunday March 13th Suncorp Stadium.   Whatever happens, it’ll be a great occasion for Brisbane football …. but a sell out and lifting the trophy would be most welcome!!