Mitch Nichols (l) celebrates scoring the winning goal.
Mitch Nichols (l) celebrates scoring the winning goal. Getty Images

Roar begin defence with a win

A-LEAGUE champions Brisbane Roar has begun the new season the same way the club finished the old one.

The 2010/11 grand final replay between the Roar and the Central Coast Mariners ended with the home side claiming a first-up 1-0 victory.

In front of a crowd of 13,467, Ange Postecoglou's men spurned a number of good chances before young attacker Mitch Nichols secured the win in the second half.

The Roar-Mariners rivalry has started to be defined by gripping and tense matches and Postecoglou was pleased to start the club's championship defence with another victory over its closest rival. 

"We know we have down the work but it has been a long time since we played that you're obviously a bit nervous as to how we'll we go," he said.

"But I was really pleased with the boys and right from the first minute we played our football.

"Overall it was really pleasing that in a first-up game I really couldn't ask for any more."

There was little lighting the fuse of the grand final replay in the first ten minutes with both sides unable to create any clear-cut chances.

However, he Roar had the perfect chance to take the lead in the 25th minute when new winger Issey Nakajima-Farran sent Mitch Nichols one-on-one with goalkeeper Matthew Ryan.

Nichols took one touch, rounded the prone Ryan but slapped his shot against the upright with the goal mouth completely unguarded.

The Roar was starting to rack up a hefty shots-on-target ledger and Ryan was forced to pull out a number of first class saves - highlighting his importance to the visitors after coming back from a knee reconstruction.

Both Nichols and debutant Besart Berisha were asking strong questions of Ryan, but the reigning Joe Marston Medal winner had all the answers. 

Central Coast's Matt Simon and Michael McGlinchey sent scares through the Roar backline in the shadows of the first half but both teams headed into the sheds all square.

Unlike the first 45 minutes, the second half started with a glut of goal-mouth action.

Berisha went close, Mariner's Michael Baird went even closer - his header cleared off the line - and Roar's James Meyer was only denied by the goal-line heroics of Ryan.

Both coaches rang the changes halfway through the second stanza but the battle for supremacy continued unabated.

However, the Roar took the first step in gaining the upper hand in that battle as Nichols finally took one of his chances.

Ivan Franjic - laid up with injury moments before - broke down the right flank, arrowed a pass across the box and Nichols, with one touch, blasted past the despairing Ryan to give the home-side the advantage.

Mariners' head coach Graham Arnold emptied his bench with only four minutes left on the clock, but it wasn't to be, Brisbane notching up its 29th straight victory in the A-League.

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