Then in the 90th minute, young gun Dylan Wenzel-Halls let rip with a rocket from outside the box to confirm the Roar’s second win of the season. It was also the first for interim coach Darren Davies, who managed to pull something remarkable from what looked an unsalvageable situation.
For Sydney, it was a slow-moving trainwreck. Steve Corica’s men looked like they were coasting after taking the lead when they should have shown more initiative and energy. Maybe the hot, humid conditions had something to do with it, but nothing can excuse such a lacklustre display when the team is in the mix for silverware.
The bright spark for the Sky Blues was the debut of Reza Ghoochanejhad. Corica started the former Iranian international on his A-League debut and he looked very lively, combining well up front with Adam Le Fondre on a number of occasions.
Ghoochanejhad wasted little time making an impact. Just seconds after the kick-off, he went on a threatening surge forward which was halted by a clumsy challenge from Luke DeVere.
Former Socceroos centre-back DeVere was shown a yellow card but also tweaked his right knee in the process and lasted just 10 more minutes until he was replaced by midfielder Joe Caletti, prompting a major reshuffle at the back for Brisbane.
Their makeshift back four predictably began to leak chances. The Sky Blues should have gone ahead in the 20th minute, when a low cross from Ghoochanejhad was tipped by goalkeeper Brendan White into the path of Milos Ninkovic.
Somehow, the Serbian managed to blast his shot over the bar from seven metres out with an empty net at his mercy. A few minutes later, De Silva rattled the upright with a first-time ping.
Then another Brisbane player succumbed to injury. Jack Hingert, who had moved in from right-back to cover for DeVere, tried to play on after appearing to jar his knee in the passage of play where Ninkovic missed his sitter, but was withdrawn in the 29th minute. Debutant Izaack Powell came on for him — and at 16 years old, he became the youngest player in the Roar’s history.
Sydney kept coming, and had two shots palmed away by White in the space of a minute — the first from Adam Le Fondre, after a neat one-two with Ghoochanejhad, and the second from the new signing himself who had the time and space to curl in a shot that looked destined to go in.
But the opener finally came for the Sky Blues in the 55th minute. Le Fondre had acres of space to aim at goal and though his shot was parried by White, the ball slid through Powell’s legs and to De Silva at the back post, who slammed it home. It was 1-0 to Sydney, but disaster was just around the corner.
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.