Roar pull off huge ACL upset to keep hopes alive
JAMIE Maclaren broke his continental duck as Brisbane Roar remained alive and kicking in their bid to qualify for the AFC Champions League knockout stages with an upset 2-1 win over Japanese heavyweights Kashima Antlers at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.
Down and almost out after picking up just one point from their opening three Group E matches, the Roar turned the tables on Kashima, who beat Brisbane 3-0 in Japan last month.
Goals to Maclaren and Brett Holman had the Roar 2-0 ahead, with the hosts surviving a late scare when substitute Ryota Nagaki pulled one back for Kashima with 11 minutes remaining.
Brisbane's win moved them to within two points of Kashima, who entered the contest as group leaders.
Prolific at A-League level, Maclaren's 18th-minute goal was his first in Asian competition and the Roar's first in their Group E campaign.
Profiting from a sweet pass from teammate Brandon Borrello and some clumsy defending from Naomichi Ueda, Maclaren's angled shot was too good for goalkeeper Kwoun Suntae.
The spurned Socceroo also made another point to national coach Ange Postecoglou, who was among the spectators in the small crowd of 5567.
"It's good to score any goal,” Maclaren said.
"Eighteen in the A-League, first one in the Champions League, and as a striker you're based on goals - that's my job.”
Maclaren wasn't aware that Postecoglou, who left him out of the Socceroos squad for last month's qualifiers Iraq and the UAE, was going to be at the game.
"My mentality is to just go on and score goals, whether it's Champions League or A-League. I've hit form at a good time before the finals and I know that if I'm given the chance, I'll take it,” he said.
Maclaren's goal was added to four minutes after half-time by Holman, who pounced on a poor clearance from Kashima skipper Mitsuo Ogasawara to smash the ball past stunned keeper Kwoun.
The visitors hauled themselves back into the contest in the 79th minute when through substitute Nagaki.
But the Roar held on to keep their hopes of finishing in the top two alive ahead of their visit to Thailand to meet Muangthong United on April 26.
They will be without defenders Avraam Papadopoulos and Corey Brown, who will be suspended after each being booked for a second time in their club's Group E campaign.
Defender Jack Hingert could be in doubt for the Roar's A-League clash against Wellington Phoenix on Sunday at Suncorp Stadium after injuring his cheekbone last night.
Despite Hingert's injury, Brisbane coach John Aloisi was delighted with the victory.
"It gives the boys plenty of confidence not only for the rest of the (Champions League) campaign, but also leading into the (A-League) finals,” Aloisi said.
"That was a huge win because that shows how good we can be.”