Brisbane Roar’s 2016-17 campaign ended on Wednesday night with an entertaining 3-2 defeat against Koreans Ulsan Hyundai in the Asian Champions League (ACL) at Suncorp Stadium.
Brisbane were looking for redemption having been thrashed 6-0 in the reverse fixture, while Ulsan went to Brisbane in form, winning their last three games in the K-League.
The Roar had the better of the chances throughout the game, but the A-League side only had themselves to blame, handing their opponents two costly goals from poor defensive errors.
Brisbane were first to concede when Seo Myeong-Won shot towards Jamie Young, who fumbled the ball through his legs and over the line.
The Roar fired back with two first half goals, as departing duo Brandon Borrello and Jamie Maclaren combined in the 18th and 37th minutes to give Brisbane the lead going into the second half.
Jamie Maclaren was inches away from a hat-trick in the 52nd minute, but the A-League Young Footballer of the Year could only hit the post with his finish.
The troubles continued for Brisbane just minutes later, when Tommy Oar misfired a back-pass to Young, putting a chance on a platter for Ulsan’s Nam Hee-Cheol to slot home in the 54th minute.
The visitors finished off the game when substitute Kim Yong-Jin pounced on a loose ball from a set piece in the 75th minute, leaving the home side at the bottom of Group E and out of the ACL.
Brisbane farewell three key players
The clash with Ulsan marked the last time out in a Brisbane kit for three of the side’s most influential players, as young guns Maclaren and Borrello look set for moves to Europe, while 36-year-old Thomas Broich will hang up his boots or move elsewhere.
There is no arguing the fact that Maclaren and Borrello have been among the best players in the A-League this season, and the pair are still far from the peak of their potential in their early 20s.
Borrello has been linked with German second division clubs Kaiserslautern and 1860 Munich, while Maclaren’s name has been associated with a number of clubs including Premier League power Manchester City.
Little has to be said about the impact German magician Broich has had on the A-League, earning three A-League titles and two Johnny Warren Medals in a seven-year career with the Queensland club.
Back to the drawing board for John Aloisi
Although his side earned itself a much better result than the 6-0 thrashing the last time it faced Ulsan, Aloisi’s Brisbane will be frustrated they could not get the result they deserved.
An early blunder from goalkeeper Young forced Brisbane to chase the game early, but after going ahead in the 37th minute, Oar made another costly error that allowed the visitors to retake the game and earn the win.
Aloisi’s side was unlucky at times, but it was caught out looking deflated at times and with Borrello and Maclaren, the most influential players on the night both departing the club, the ex-Socceroo has his work cut out for him in the off-season.
With Broich on the way out, a marquee spot opens up for Brisbane who will be looking to make some big moves to fill some big holes left by imminent departures in what could be an interesting transfer period.
Will Maclaren make an impact in Europe?
Maclaren has been linked with plenty of clubs over the past couple of seasons, but the league’s top scorer looks certain to move on to bigger things.
Many have been questioning the effect the striker will have in one of Europe’s highly competitive leagues, but at the young age of 23, Maclaren has nowhere to go but up.
The youngster has proven his goalscoring ability this season, finishing as joint top scorer with Besart Berisha on 19 goals, and his accolades this season have earned him a reputation among European scouts.
Wherever Maclaren ends up, the speedy striker has a very strong potential that will only be developed among the world’s best in Europe, and the capped Socceroo’s journey over the coming seasons will be an exciting development to follow.