Brisbane Roar stormed into the A-League finals series with a 3-1 win over Sydney FC in their high-stakes encounter at Suncorp Stadium. The defending champions are now guaranteed to finish in fifth place on the table, while the Sky Blues will spend a nervous Easter weekend waiting on other results to decide their fate.
A glaring error from former Italy international Alessandro Del Piero resulted in Besart Berisha opening the scoring in the 29th minute. The Roar profited a second time from a Sydney mistake after the break, with Steven Lustica the player to double their advantage. The in-form Ivan Franjic curled in a third for Brisbane late on, before Del Piero scored a consolation goal for Sydney from the penalty spot.
The Roar started the better side and after eight minutes Thomas Broich sent a swerving free-kick just wide of the post from almost the same spot he scored from in open play the previous week against Melbourne Heart. Sydney had the first shot on target a short while later when Brisbane failed to effectively clear a corner and Ali Abbas fired in a tricky ball from wide on the left which Roar goalkeeper Michael Theo saved.
Roar midfielder Luke Brattan narrowly missed the target from 25 yards, sending a first-time shot low and just wide of Ivan Necevski's right post. A wayward Del Piero back-pass in the 29th minute gifted Brisbane the first goal of the night, as Broich swooped on the loose ball and played a cross to Berisha, who hit the net for his 14th goal of the season.
Three minutes later, midfielder Terry Antonis galloped into space and fired a shot at goal which narrowly missed the target. Joel Griffiths had the best chance of the first half for Sydney when he leapt for an Abbas cross at the back post, but Theo scrambled to slap the ball clear.
Del Piero nearly atoned for his earlier error with an audacious chip from a tough angle. Theo couldn't reach the dipping shot, but it fell just to the right of goal. Griffiths once again came close to an equaliser just after the break, but his close-range header was well saved by Theo.
Brisbane push further ahead
Brisbane doubled their advantage in the 51st minute, and once again the goal came from a sloppy Sydney pass. Sebastian Ryall sent a ball out of defence straight to Berisha, and the Albanian teed up Lustica who made no mistake with the finish.
In the 65th minute, Sky Blues defender Ryall could have dragged his side back into the contest, but his header from a Del Piero cross bounced agonisingly wide of the Roar goal. Franjic sealed the win for his side with a superb effort from just inside the area which curled over Necevski and into the top right corner.
Sydney pulled a goal back with six minutes remaining of regular time, as Roar defender James Donachie tangled with Griffiths just inside the area and the referee pointed to the spot. Del Piero made it 3-1, but Sydney were unable to beat Theo for a second time in the few minutes that remained.