The second of the two Australia Cup play-off match-ups took place on Friday night at Wanderers Football Park in Blacktown between Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar.
In a match that was dominated early by the Roar, it was the Wanderers who drew first blood off a free-kick, which took a deflection from the wall to a waiting Jarrod Carluccio who headed it home.
The defences of both sides would be called into action at various points in the first half with some goal-line clearances required and Juan Lescano missing an open net for Brisbane to keep it a 1-0 lead for the home side heading into the break.
Warren Moon made a triple sub at halftime to try and capitalise on the attacking opportunities his side created in the first half, bringing on Luke Ivanović, Nikola Mileusnić and Cyrus Dehmie.
The substitutes would pay dividends for the Roar, as Dehmie and Ivanović would both find the back of the net, giving them a 2-1 lead just 13 minutes into the second half.
For Moon, while it’s nice to see the changes to the strategy and tactics work out, it is all about the players involved.
“Look, it’s not about me, it’s about the players. They need to go out and execute,” Moon said when speaking to The Inner Sanctum post-game.
“I didn’t think we were far off in the first half. Probably just had a few too many weary legs from the short turnaround on the park. We knew coming in we wanted to freshen it up in the second half with fresh legs and Nikola (Mileusnić), Luke (Ivanović), Cyrus (Dehmie), Henry (Hore), and it paid off.
“I think the boys that came on, they still have to do the job, and they did the job for us.”
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In the 76th minute, Ivanović would get the brace to put the game to bed with a 3-1 lead for the visitors, with his performance earning him praise from the coach, and whether that would impact his role in the squad next season.
“He’s [Ivanović] a player with untapped potential. We know what he can do,” Moon said.
“Brisbane Roar, we’re willing to give opportunity to players like him, and that’s no slight on Sydney. They have a different model, and they’ve got some very very good players to fight [to get] in front of.
“For us, he’s got more opportunity here, and he showed what he can do when he’s match fit and healthy and stays on the park.
“Luke shows that when he performs he’s in our best eleven. If that’s the case next season, great for him and great for us.”
For Ivanović, who now has a total of six goals this season across the league (three), the previous FFA Cup campaign (one), and the current Australia Cup campaign (two), he has looked like a different player since making the move to Brisbane Roar, and it was a move that Ivanović was keen to make.
“I actually wanted to come to Warren Moon and Brisbane for a while now and to come up here, he knew what potential I had, so it’s obviously great,” Ivanović said speaking to The Inner Sanctum post-match.
“What he’s done for me, and what I’ve done for myself, so it’s obviously great to end the season like that, so [I] couldn’t be more happier.”
Despite the long off-season ahead, the season is not done just yet for Ivanović if he gets his wish.
“Obviously being young, a big off-season is crucial. I’m actually leaning towards the All-Stars. I’m hoping I can get into the All-Stars team, which is in the next couple of weeks, so I’m hoping I can get into that and we’ll see what happens.”
If selected, it won’t be the first time Ivanović gets the chance to come to play against some of Europe’s best, as he played against Paris Saint-Germain during his time at Sydney FC, and the experience for young players getting to play against these top-level European squads can not be understated.
“[It’s] massive. Massive. Obviously, just for myself and just the A-League in general to be honest. If the A-League gets exposure, hopefully, we can show obviously the best players in the country against the best teams in the world.”
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