Any Brisbane Roar fans feeling slightly underwhelmed by the club’s off-season recruiting were provided reason for reassurance on Tuesday night, as Warren Moon’s side rolled to a 3-0 win over Peninsula Power as the FFA Cup returned.
All three goals came through new arrivals as Matti Steinmann and Luke Ivanovic ensured the contest was in control inside the first thirty minutes, before Argetinian striker Juan Lescano added a third off the bench at the death.
The match shaped as a battle of familiar foes, with Roar coach Moon having played for, and managed the defending NPL Queensland Champions. Current Peninsula manager Aaron Philp spent time as Moon’s assistant, and the Power have provided the Roar with frequent pre-season tune-ups in recent years.
The Power were 45 minutes too late in realising there was something on the line this time, but showed why they’ve been so dominant at state level early in the second half. They went closest on 55 minutes as rattled Roar defender Scott Neville shinned a tempting ball just over his own crossbar, while Brenton Fox’s free-kick forced Macklin Freke into a save late on.
Other than that the Power lacked a final ball for their pressure and the Roar were never truly threatened, and took a step towards improving their dire FFA Cup record with their third win in nine games.
Ivanovic, Lescano and Nikola Mileusnic generating enough goals to challenge for A-League silverware does seem unlikely at this point, but this win at least provided a glimpse of Moon’s attacking framework post Dylan Wenzel-Halls and Riku Danzaki.
Ivanovic in particular looks ready to explode; at 21 he’s left Sydney FC hoping to graduate from bench contributor to regular starter and dazzled in the opening half, denied twice by impressive Power keeper Phillip Zubaks.
Another who looks ready to grow into a senior footballer is Rahmat Akbari, who enjoyed space behind holding midfielders Daniel Cunha and Jesse Rigby early, playing as the most advanced of the Roar’s midfielders.
In fairness that pair were central to the Power’s improved second half as they muscled up and forced a higher defensive line, with much-vaunted striker Andy Pengelly and later Fox able to give the Roar mild headaches.
Ultimately they were unable to deliver a ‘cupset’ on the competition’s long-awaited return and bow out for the second time at this stage, but will quickly return their focus to their League assignments, where back-to-back titles loom with five to play.
The Roar advance to the Round of 16 for the third time and will be delighted to have eased Lescano into his new colours with a goal. At 28 he’s managed middling returns in the second and third tiers of Russian football, and his goal tally appears critical to Brisbane’s success or otherwise.
Incumbent goalkeeper Macklin Freke may also face competition for his spot ahead of the next match, with Olyroos goalkeeper Jordan Holmes joining the club on Tuesday.