May 5, 2014 – 11:27PM
Fire and ice: Wanderers midfielder Iacopo La Rocca was a thorn in the side for Brisbane, especially the combustible Besart Berisha. Photo: Getty-Images
He might have played the game of his life in the biggest game of the season but Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder Iacopo La Rocca says there’s no silver lining to Sunday’s grand final defeat.
La Rocca was instrumental in breaking up Brisbane’s dynamic midfield in the first hour of the season decider before slotting into defence to cover for the injured Nikolai Topor-Stanley.
However, with the Roar cancelling out Matthew Spiranovic’s opener through Besart Berisha, and then Henrique slotting home an extra-time winner, La Rocca was left to lament a second championship defeat in as many seasons. He said the pride in winning the Joe Marston Medal – jointly with Brisbane’s Thomas Broich – was all too fleeting.
“Yes but I don’t care – we lost the game. It was important to win but we didn’t win, and congratulations to Brisbane Roar,” he said. “They did a very good season. We have to try and win next season.”
La Rocca continued to perform admirably after his mid-game positional switch, even though it coincided with the Roar’s two goals. The Italian has only ever played at the back a handful of times in his decade-long career.
“It was difficult but I played centre-back two years ago,” he said. “It was different, and we know that Nikolai is a very important player for us. But I had to do my job, and that’s what I did. If I have to play at central back, I play at central back.”
The Wanderers have no time to lick their wounds after a hectic 24 hours of travel following the grand final.
The demands of playing in the Asian Champions League are well documented but there will be few turnarounds as brutal as the one endured by the Wanderers this week.
The players went straight from Suncorp Stadium to Brisbane Airport, flying to Sydney and staying in an airport hotel on Sunday night. They then flew on an early morning flight to Tokyo, arriving in the evening. After that, they then transferred to another flight to Hiroshima for the first leg of their round of 16 clash.
However, La Rocca said competing in Asia against the J-League champions would be a comforting distraction.
“We lost the game and, no, we cannot do nothing. But now we have to change our minds and be ready for the next game against the Japanese team,” he said. “I know that it won’t be easy but we are a good team and we have to change our mind. I think we can do very good in the Asian Champions League.”
Topor-Stanley said he wasn’t sure how serious his injury was, with early reports indicating a medial ligament strain.
“It’s obviously a bit sore but the disappointment is far worse. We’ll reassess back in Sydney,” he said. “I don’t know [how bad it is]. I’ll have to get it scanned, and we’ll take it from there.”
The tall defender, who had the captain’s armband, said he desperately wanted to stay on the park with his team leading 1-0.
“I wanted to stay on but the physios ruled me out,” he said. “I couldn’t really do any lateral movements, and I probably would have been a burden to the boys. But what can you do.”
Even though he was angry enough at being substituted to throw his armband to the ground, Topor-Stanley reckoned his teammates were still in the right position to emerge triumphant.
“I thought the boys would go on and do it but it just wasn’t to be, and full credit to Brisbane,” he said. “They never gave up, they never lost belief or panicked. They’re a great side.”
Source :The Sydney Morning Herald