Brisbane Roar midfielder Ivan Franjic broke Wellington Phoenix hearts with a 90th-minute strike to seal a 2-1 win in their A-League season opener at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
The game looked destined for a draw until Franjic and Thomas Broich combined to slice open the tiring Wellington defence as injury time loomed.
Broich’s initial shot ricocheted off the upright, but Franjic made no mistake with his follow up to slam home the winner.
New Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick, missing six front-line players to international duties and injury, would have been happy with the draw but the result was a fair one for Brisbane, who had the upper hand in the second half.
Stand-in skipper Ben Sigmund’s vision set up the Phoenix’s goal after 22 minutes, his raking cross-field ball nodded down by Michael Boxall for former Belgian international Stein Huysegems to calmly slot home.
Franjic nearly equalised two minutes later, allowing too much time and room in front and it took a Sigmund deflection to tip his shot onto the upright with keeper Jacob Spoonley beaten.
The Phoenix continued to create chances, Manny Muscat looking long to find Kenny Cunningham on the edge of the box in the 38th minute.
The Costa Rican international did well to outmuscle Shane Stefanutto only for Michael Theo to smother the shot.
The Roar continued to build pressure as halftime approached, switching play from side to side and forcing their first corner of the game right on 45 minutes.
The ball fell wide to Franjic, who showed good strength in the tackle to turn and centre for Besart Berisha to nod home. But the offside flag spare the Phoenix’s blushes, and the home team went into the break 1-0 up.
It took less than a minute after the restart for Brisbane to equalise as the Wellington defence doze, Franjic again key with a jinking run down the right which ended in a pinpoint cross for Berisha to drill home.
Franjic was an ever-present danger throughout the game, finding time and space to create opportunities, and finishing with venom when given half a chance just as the Phoenix looked to have secured the draw.
BRISBANE ROAR 2 (Besart Berisha 47m, Ivan Franjic 90+2m) bt WELLINGTON PHOENIX 1 (Stein Huysegems 22m) at Westpac Stadium. Crowd: 8,239. Referee: Tim McGilchrist.