Brisbane sharpshooter Jamie Maclaren delivered a reminder of his quality to Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou with an A-League wonder-goal to sink Melbourne Victory and deliver the Premiers’ Plate to Sydney FC.
Brisbane’s 1-0 win confirms the Sky Blues’ first silverware in seven years as the runaway leaders now enter Sunday’s clash with Perth 11 points ahead of the second-placed Victory with three rounds to play.
But Maclaren’s 51st-minute super strike at Suncorp Stadium proved just as important for the Roar as it sealed their finals position, solidified fourth spot and provided relief from some late-season wobbles.
It also came with the club under siege as high performance director Karl Dodd resigned on match day after assistant coach Ross Aloisi and football director Craig Moore were suspended following last week’s post-match dramas in Adelaide.
Coach John Aloisi was blindsided by Dodd’s “shock” resignation, delivered at 12.50am, but said Saturday night’s performance showed the club’s strength.
“It’s been a tough week,” Aloisi said. “A lot of things have been said about individuals and the club in general … but you can tell if a football club is in turmoil when players give up (but) this team doesn’t give up.
“We are strong as a club and that’s what we showed today. We are moving in the right direction.”
Maclaren’s goal was pure class as he outsmarted defenders Alan Baro and Nic Ansell to latch on to Avram Papadopoulos’s long ball to lob Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas from 25m.
It was his sixth goal in seven matches at a time Postecoglou is looking for more from his finishers in a stuttering World Cup campaign.
“It was a world-class finish,” Aloisi said. “It was a a beautiful goal by Macca.”
Former Roar defender Jason Geria had a gilt-edged chance to equalise with 20 minutes left but failed to deliver for the understrength Victory.
With Luke DeVere making his return from a month-long calf injury as skipper, the Roar were the dominant team for most of the night.
The scoreless opening half featured two booming long-range strikes from Brett Holman and Jack Hingert, both of which went inches from putting the home side ahead.
Only the left upright denied Holman from a repeat of his 2010 World Cup goal against Serbia while Thomas produced a superb leaping save to tip Hingert’s longer effort over the bar.
Missing four internationals, the gallant visitors finished the stronger of the two teams to the delight of coach Kevin Muscat.
Muscat took aim at the timing of the split round, which cost him the services of attacking trio Besart Berisha, Marco Rojas and James Troisi, as well as Jai Ingham.
“Not having international breaks is madness,” he said.