Rising star Brandon Borrello stole Carlos Tevez’s spotlight by helping Brisbane Roar book a spot in the AFC Champions League’s group stage with a stunning victory in China.
The 21-year-old continued his rich vein of form with another cracking goal and an assist in Wednesday night’s slick 2-0 qualifying win over Shanghai Shenhua.
Thousands were in the stands at the Hongkou Stadium and millions tuned in to see former Premier League star Tevez make his competitive debut for the Chinese Super League club, following his recent big-money move from Argentina’s Boca Juniors.
Instead they were left shell-shocked when Borrello volleyed home a terrific Tommy Oar cross into the bottom corner to put Brisbane 1-0 up in just the second minute.
Then, five minutes before halftime, the Adelaide-born winger provided the cutback for Socceroos hopeful Oar to double their lead with a right-foot shot from close range.
It comes a week after Borrello, who has spent most of the season unable to crack the Roar’s first-choice XI, bagged four goals in the 6-0 preliminary win over Filipino side Global FC at Suncorp Stadium.
Brisbane had to rely on some desperate defensive acts to finish the job and have back-up goalkeeper Jamie Young, who deputised for Michael Theo, to thank for a string of important saves – including one incredible reflex effort to deny Shenhua’s other key import Obafemi Martins midway through the second half.
Tevez and Martins had multiple sights on goal but the high-profile pair were reasonably well contained by the Roar’s rearguard, while midfield enforcer Thomas Kristensen was hugely influential.
The visitors had a clear fitness advantage over Shenhua, who are still in pre-season, but the defeat will put immediate pressure on new coach Gus Poyet given Champions League qualification was the free-spending club’s primary aim.
The result, arguably Brisbane’s finest on the international stage, puts them in Group E and sets up an immediate reunion with Dimitri Petratos, who left his teammates in Shanghai to seal a sudden transfer to Ulsan Hyundai this week.
The South Korean side secured their place in the same group on Tuesday night by beating Hong Kong outfit Kitchee on penalties, joining Japan’s Kashima Antlers and Thailand’s Muangthong United.
It is the third time the Roar has made the Champions League proper but they have never moved past the group stage.
Two other A-League sides, Adelaide United and Western Sydney, are also in this year’s tournament.