Sydney FC were unable to capitalise on having an extra man for the entire second half as a relentless 10-man Brisbane held on for a 1-1 draw in an action-packed A-League clash on Friday night.
The Roar had destroyed Sydney in their previous two clashes this campaign – 4-0 and 5-2 – and could have had one hand on the Premiers’ Plate with victory on Friday.
But any chance of another big win at Allianz Stadium was dealt a massive blow when the Roar were reduced to 10 men as their most potent attacking weapon, Besart Berisha, was sent off for a questionable challenge late in the first half.
His 23rd-minute goal had given the visitors the lead before Sebastian Ryall levelled just over 10 minutes later.
Sydney were dealt a double blow in attack with Alessandro Del Piero ruled out with back tightness and striker Ranko Despotovic sidelined with a knee injury suffered at training during the week.
But that didn’t stop the Sky Blues from coming out firing, looking to assert themselves on the league leaders.
Despite Sydney’s strong start it was the Roar who broke the deadlock with usual suspects Thomas Broich and Berisha combining beautifully to give Brisbane the lead.
Broich delivered a precision ball into the box for the Albanian striker, whose looping header lifted him to equal top of the goal-scorers’ list with his 11th strike this season.
The Sky Blues didn’t drop their heads and found the equaliser in the 35th minute, a superb corner by Nikola Petkovic finding Ryall in the box for the easy header.
But the game was turned on its head when tensions boiled over between the two goal scorers just minutes later after Berisha brought down Ryall with a two-footed challenge.
The Roar striker was left seeing red by the referee as Brisbane were left to play out the match a man down.
The Roar however, continued to press and created the best chances of the match with midfield maestro Broich still wreaking havoc with Sydney’s defence and Liam Miller looking dangerous.
Ali Abbas worked tirelessly down the left flank for Sydney and had a chance to give them the lead late in the match but his shot went just wide.
Richard Garcia could have sealed the win for Sydney if not for a perfectly-timed interception from Matt McKay.
The Roar continued their assault in the dying minutes with both Luke Brattan and Brazilian Henrique drawing brilliant saves from Sydney keeper Vedran Janjetovic.
Petkovic had the 13,073 fans on the edge of their seats with his extra time free-kick just going wide.