27/02/2024

Charlie Austin in action against Adelaide United in the Australia Cup Quarter Finals (Image: Ken Carter)

A cold night in Adelaide’s Service FM Stadium at Gepps Cross was the stage for Brisbane Roar’s Quarter-Final encounter against three-time Australia Cup winners Adelaide United.

Despite the discourse leading into the game being focused on the Roar’s off-field issues, Warren Moon’s men let their football do the talking in the first half.

The Roar made the Reds look second class in the first stanza of the game and if it wasn’t for goalkeeper Joe Gauci, who made a couple of crucial interventions early, the match would have been over before it even started.

Despite Gauci’s heroics, Jay O’Shea got the Brisbane bench on its feet with a cracking shot from outside the box, just six minutes into the game, which was well beyond the goalkeeper’s reach, to give the Roar a deserved lead.

As the Roar continued to impose their will on the match while chasing a second goal, it was their English import that applied the finishing touch. Around the half-hour mark, Charlie Austin rose the highest during a Roar corner and buried the header with a textbook striker’s finish.

After a celebratory knee slide, Austin produced a heart with his hands, sharing with The Inner Sanctum that it was a tribute to his family that has only recently arrived from England.

“The goal was for them, my wife Bianca, my daughter Avabella, and my son Hunter. They mean the world to me, to have them here is so important to me. I love them,” Austin remarked post-match.

The goal was Austin’s first in Roar colours and it turned out to be the winner, its importance was not lost on the striker.

“It was an important goal to put us two up; obviously, we conceded not long after. It was a good team performance, everyone worked really hard and did their jobs right and it showed. We stuck in there, held on and got a good win; it is the first time the club is in the (Australia Cup) semi-finals, so it’s important.”

Opposing forward Hiroshi Ibusuki turned from hero to villain for the Reds in the second half, grabbing a goal back before halftime. The goalscorer was given a straight red card for a dangerous tackle.

The Reds knew they had to force the issue and the Roar had to defend as a team, with no player, not even Austin exempt from sacrificing personal gain for team success.

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Austin was often found playing further behind his usual forward role and despite it not being his forte, he did it with distinction, releasing the pressure off his team with his ability to control and distribute the ball under pressure.

“We tried to use Niko (Mileusnic) and Riku’s (Danzaki) pace in behind so it was easier for me just to drop in. Listen, I don’t like doing that (dropping further back), I play down the middle. It worked tonight and we move onto the next game,” Austin shared.

Charlie Austin found himself dropping to pick up the ball more often against Adelaide United (Image: Ken Carter)

All four semi-finalists of the Australia Cup have never previously reached that stage and Austin, whose home country, England, puts a big emphasis on its domestic cup competitions is relishing the opportunity of reaching a final within months of landing in Brisbane.

Shortly after the match finished, the Roar tuned into the semi-final draw to find out it had drawn Sydney United, maintaining their record of playing exclusively on the road in the 2022 edition of the competition.

Even though Austin was jubilant by his side’s achievements, his experience has taught him to keep a lid on occasions like this.

“We just have to put get our heads down. We have a tough place to go to next tie, it is going to be a bit different on the AstroTurf, but it is something to look forward to, being 90 minutes away from a final.”

Despite a tumultuous fortnight off the pitch for non-footballing reasons, Warren Moon and his squad have been able to place a bubble around themselves that renders external noise ineffective.

The Roar played with a point to prove and will be a handful for any potential opponents. Still, before silverware even enters the realm of possibility, a date with Sydney United awaits.

If the Australia Cup has taught A-League clubs anything it is that taking NPL oppositions lightly can have destructive consequences.

Brisbane Roar face Sydney United on Saturday, September 11 at Sydney United Sports Centre

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