Tonight the Brisbane Roar face Korean opponent Ulsan Hyundai in a match which could signal the end of their hopes of ACL success in 2012. With a possible 9 points left to play for, and placed 3 points behind 2nd placed Ulsan, tonight is do or die.
With the game kicking off at 7:30pm in Brisbane tonight, a media conference involving both team’s captains and managers was held yesterday. Brisbane manager Ange Postecoglou was bristling as the assembled media continued to harass him about his future. Postecoglou was asked were the questions regarding his future annoying, he quipped, “Do you think it is? You keep asking the questions though don’t you.” The rumour mill has linked him with marquee club Melbourne Victory, however, Postecoglou is firmly focused on his ACL task and the A League Grand Final this Sunday. The manager was not concerned at what some deem inconvenient scheduling. Regarding the game tonight just 4 and a half days before the grand final he said, “that’s the nature of the sport we’re involved in, there’s an international aspect . . .”
Brisbane’s opponents Ulsan have had a successful start to their K League season conceding just one match from the opening seven. Just six days ago the tigers had a 0-0 draw with 2nd placed Jeju and notably they have conceded just 4 goals in 7 matches. The Roar will not be taking their opponents lightly given the meeting two weeks ago yielded a 1-1 draw. However, the Australian side had dictated terms, leading 1-nil until Matt Jurman was given a red card in the 47th minute. Striker Besart Berisha had calmly cut back for an oncoming Nick Fitzgerald to put Brisbane ahead in the 36th minute. Unfortunately the red card turned the game and Ulsan were able to equalise in the 55th minute. A very open affair but the result remaining a 1-1 deadlock.
With it all to play for tonight expect Brisbane to take the three points even if some key players get rested. In other action FC Tokyo host Beijing Guoan. The previous meeting between the two teams also resulted in deadlock. Hosted by the giants of the Chinese Super League the home team were recipients of a very helpful piece of refereeing to go ahead via a penalty (click here to see the youtube video) in the 11th minute. Not surprisingly when FC Tokyo hit back it was midfielder Hasegawa who was on target in the 44th minute. The Iranian-Japanese midfielder has been on fire throughout the tournament and in the J League, only recently coming unstuck with some disciplinary issues.
Around the Champions League the other interesting clashes involve Thai outfit Buriram and Jeonbuk Motors. The Thai club travel to Korea attempting to reverse their first ACL defeat just a fortnight ago. They are the giant killers of the competition taking the scalps of Japanese champs Kashiwa Reysol and Chinese champs Gaungzhou Evergrande. Group G seems to be full of shocks though with Guangzhou opening the tournament with a 5-1 win over Jeonbuk. Expect the Koreans to be on song tonight as they have it all to play for, sitting on 3 points while Kashiwa and Guangzhou on 4 points meet, means they will lose contact with the top two unless they take points.