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Mar 28, 2013

Roar into A-League finals

Whatever nerves Frank Farina felt ahead of his Suncorp Stadium homecoming will be nothing compared to what awaits this weekend after Sydney FC lost 3-1 to Brisbane Roar on Thursday night.

Two-time A-League champions the Roar can launch a title defence after locking up a finals spot with the vital win in their regular-season finale - but it remains to be seen whether Farina's Sky Blues will join them.

Farina would have been riding an emotional rollercoaster ahead of his first game back at Suncorp since he was sacked as Roar coach for drink-driving in 2009.

However, there is no let up in sight for the Roar's former favourite son as he sweats on Sydney FC's finals fate over the Easter weekend.

The Roar thrilled the 19,010-strong crowd by locking up fifth spot, leaving just one finals berth left.

Sixth-placed Sydney FC (32 points) face a white-knuckle ride as they look to hold out Perth (31) and Newcastle (31), who finish their regular season against No.4 Adelaide United and leaders Western Sydney Wanderers respectively.

A simple finals formula faced both sides in Brisbane on Thursday night - win and you're in.

But a more complex equation now awaits the Sky Blues if they are to scrape into the finals.

Ideally, Sydney FC would want Perth and Newcastle to lose but can still seal sixth if the Glory lose and the Jets draw.

Winning at Suncorp was always going to be a tough ask for Sydney FC.

They had savoured victory just three times in their past 18 games at the venue and last won way back in 2007.

In contrast, the Roar have won their past eight home games against Sydney FC.

German import Thomas Broich looked dangerous early for the Roar but it was teammate Besart Berisha who drew first blood in the 29th minute.

Proving that he is human after all, Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero's clumsy pass caused a turnover and Broich pounced, providing a perfect pass for Berisha to knock in his 14th season goal and 27th in as many games at the venue.

Whatever Farina said at halftime initially seemed to work as they came out with intent but it was the Roar who scored again off another Sydney FC turnover.

The Roar made Sebastian Ryall pay for his gaffe as Steven Lustica combined with Berisha to score in the 51st minute.

Ivan Franjic's wonderful 79th-minute curling strike into the far corner made it 3-0 before Del Piero's 84th-minute penalty shot finally put the visitors on the board.

The Roar will play the Victory in Melbourne next week on Friday night or Adelaide United at Hindmarsh Stadium on Sunday week in the finals' first round.

It capped a remarkable rise under Mike Mulvey who took over the reins from Rado Vidosic in late December with the Roar all but written off.

"I don't feel relief - it's excitement," Mulvey said.

"I am very proud of the guys. We have had our moments since I have come in but tonight is something that they can take great credit for - they deserve it.

"We are focused now. We are ready."

Farina was fuming after turnovers "gift wrapped" the first two goals but hoped they would live to fight another day in the finals.

"They were horrendous mistakes and we got punished," he said.

"You don't want to rely on other results at this stage but we don't have much choice."

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