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Wanderers hit Roar with a Bulut

Getty

Getty

Brisbane’s A-League finals chances were dealt a crippling blow on Wednesday night in a 4-1 defeat to lowly Western Sydney.

In front of a season-worst crowd of just 6813 fans at Suncorp Stadium, a hugely depleted Roar outfit – missing eight first-choice players due to injury and national team commitments – were put to the sword by the Wanderers, who lifted themselves off the bottom of the ladder with the surprise victory.

Unable to maintain their usual grasp on possession and lacking serious spark in the final third, the reigning A-League champions face a mountainous task if they are to make something of this season.

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Their top-six hopes will effectively go on the line Saturday night at AAMI Park against Melbourne City, who sit five points ahead of the Roar in sixth position having played one more match.

But the physical cost of tying in their Asian Champions League campaign appears to be hitting home, with a sluggish Brisbane repeatedly beaten for pace by a Western Sydney outfit led by the brilliant Kerem Bulut and Romeo Castelen.

With Jade North (groin), Luke DeVere (Socceroos), and Corey Brown and James Donachie (Olyroos) all unavailable, Roar coach Frans Thijssen had little choice but to improvise with his defensive set-up.

He rolled the dice on midfielder Luke Brattan and right-back Jerome Polenz, thrusting the out-of-position pair into the centre of his makeshift back four, which was put under extreme scrutiny by the Wanderers in the early stages.

The visitors burst out of the gates and had a series of good chances – including two in the space of just a few seconds, when a Bulut shot was saved and Labinot Haliti’s follow-up was cleared off the line by Brattan – before the inevitable breakthrough came after 20 minutes.

Nikita Rukavytsya capped off a rapid counter-attack from Western Sydney, guiding home a well-weighted Haliti cross from the left with a classy first-time finish to make it 1-0.

The Roar equalised in the 41st minute, with a perfectly placed corner from Brattan trapping young Wanderers defender Jonathan Aspropotamitis into conceding an own-goal off his thigh.

But just moments before the break, Western Sydney snatched back the lead when a cross-field ball from Haliti picked out Castelen in acres of space and with flat-footed fullback Jack Hingert scrambling to catch up.

Castelen dribbled into the box and played a cut-back ball for Bulut, who converted with ease from point-blank range.

Any chance of the Roar clawing back into contention for a second time evaporated in the 58th minute, when Castelen thundered a shot into the underside of the crossbar and in, while Bulut snared his second goal two minutes from fulltime.

-AAP

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