Brisbane strikes back at Sunshine Coast

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Brisbane Strikers got payback over arch-rivals Sunshine Coast with a breathtaking 2-1 win at Perry Park on Saturday.
Matt Christensen takes it up the pitch

Key Strikers playmaker Jonti Richter was ecstatic with the hard-fought victory.

“We really came out and wanted to show something at home and we were quite competitive,
“We’re really happy with our efforts and hopefully we can go up to the Sunny Coast and put in another good performance,” he said.
The win will instill a lot of confidence in the Brisbane team ahead of the second leg of the finals. Strikers will now face Sunshine Coast for the third week in a row, this time for a spot in the 2011 Queensland State League Grand Final.
The previous week saw Sunshine Coast crowned Minor Premiers after beating Strikers 4-3 up the coast. But Brisbane were hungry for revenge over the weekend, keen to prove this is no one-horse race to the 2011 QSL Championship.
Sunshine Coast had ideal field position in the first stages of the match through some favourable refereeing decisions going their way, getting the Strikers crowd on their feet early. But the Brisbane bench were a little too vocal, leading to one member of their coaching staff being removed from the sideline just minutes into the match.
The referee’s reaction to questions from the
Strikers bench over the colour of his shirt
It was clear from the outset that this would be a high-intensity, fast-paced and passionate encounter. The level these two teams were at far surpassed their nearest rivals on the ladder. This was top quality football and an amazing sight to see.
Both sides had barely a second with the ball before an opponent was up to challenge them. It was clear that the one-on-one battles in the midfield would play a major part in the night’s match.
As the game progressed Strikers were slowly gaining the upper hand with one-two passing starting to come off nicely for the home side and increasingly frustrating Sunshine Coast players as a result.

Brisbane had the first chance of the game when a corner beat the pack in the square for Chris Di Sipio to put a kick in but it flew just wide of the post, drawing “Ooooos” from the home fans.
Another chance presented itself moments later when a cross from a free-kick on the left edge of the box was whipped into the area, only for Jonti Richter’s header to whiz past the right post. Brisbane were pressing hard to draw first blood.
Fire captain, Tyson Holmes on the run
Emulating their dominance up front in the backline, Strikers were just as solid. Ben Griffin and Ryan Mottin were particularly good in defence as they continued to give the Sunshine Coast forwards little time with the ball, leading to many rushed shots and poor decision making from the Premiers.
Fire had half-chances here and there but never really troubled the Strikers defence.
But they were once again gifted an opportunity in the Strikers zone after a foul on Sam Knight on the fringe of the penalty area, directly in front. Beating the wall and the ‘keeper the well-struck, curling kick was heading towards the top left corner before glancing the cross bar.
With neither team scoring after 30 minutes there was a sense of desperation and panic on and off the pitch as both teams realised this would not be a high-scoring match. Every last effort would be vital.
So when Sunshine Coast got a free kick for an ambiguous foul just outside the box, the crowd were fuming once again. The free kick was easily dealt with by the Strikers. But just as quickly as the ball was cleared it came right back at them, with the Fire’s Judd Molea appearing to have handballed it as he collected the stray ball on his chest. Play continued however as Molea weaved through a handful of defenders to get a shot hard and on target. Brisbane goalkeeper Brendan White put enough weight behind the ball to stop the goal, though it rebounded off his chest for another Fire player to strike at, where again White successfully deflected the shot for the Strikers to clear.
With the pressure test over a sigh of relief could be heard from the stands.
Strikers ‘keeper Brendan White was strong at the back
At half time, still no team could break the deadlock.
In the second term Strikers had the first opportunity yet again.
Another streaking run down the left by Richter set up a wonderful passage of play. Richter passed it off to the captain, No. 7 Chay Hews sitting in the danger area. Hews then crossed to Michael Angus back across the face of goal whose chip caught the Fire ‘keeper off guard as it dipped late to scuff the paint on the crossbar.
The second half was definitely a more open affair with both sides swinging the advantage their way at different stages of the match.
The Fire’s Sam Knight was having a stellar game and really shone in the second term. In a familiar scene, he flew down the wing at speed, taking a strong challenge from Brisbane to stop. The free kick was awarded, the cross sent to the back post, but yet again ‘keeper Brendan White was there with strong hands to diffuse the situation.
Sunshine Coast seemed to be coming into their own and were sticking it to the Brisbane defence. On the burst, Sam Knight again had a plum one-on-one opportunity down the left hand side. But Mottin arrived late to put pressure on the little man, making the angle too acute for Knight to get it past the Brisbane goalie.
Meanwhile, as the Fire were setting themselves up well, Strikers were losing their cool, banging it toward goal willy-nilly – whether in range or not – just to keep the ball up the other end. It felt as though a bit of patience would get them their just desserts.
And in the 58th minute the Strikers finally got it.
A soft clip by a Fire player was picked up and awarded a free-kick for Brisbane on the right side of the pitch just inside the half way line. Hews lined it up and curled it to the front of goal, where a rising Sean Burke got high above the pack to head the ball into the back of the net, sending the local fans into a frenzy. Strikers 1-0.
Strikers had a stride in their step now. The game had changed and swung well in their favour. From the forwards to the defenders and the midfielders in between, all were working overtime cutting off passes and beating their man.
They could have sealed the match in the 60th minute too when Dylan Goodman broke through some weak defence to cross to the unmarked Sean Burke in the penalty area. His volley was a sure goal from that range, if not for the diving effort of a Fire defender. It was a crucial save to keep Fire in the game.
Sunshine Coast were not laying down but were simply outclassed in the midfield. All of their chances were coming from their pacey counter attack or from free-kicks. But as the game went on the Fire were starting to gel better, following glowing performances by their captain Tyson Holmes, Dylan Roberts, Sam Knight and Aaron Brazendale.
Unable to get a result on the counter, Sunshine Coast reverted to passing it around in an attempt to manoeuvre their way around Brisbane’s stealthy defence.
Approaching the final twenty minutes it would take a captain’s goal to get the Fire back into this match. And Tyson Holmes delivered in the best way possible.
Tyson Holmes’ goal fired up his team
Following a decent build up from the back Molea was brought down in the Strikers half. A free-kick was given and Holmes took the kick from 20 metres out. With the wall in his way Holmes’ bending kick surpassed everyone, including the ‘keeper, sneaking into the very top right hand corner.
The Sunshine Coast bench and small crowd contingent roared for their captain.
It was game on at 1-1.
The tension on the pitch was palpable. In a physical encounter, yellow cards were drawn thick and fast, with a bit of argy-bargy not out of place at Perry Park. These were rivals in the truest sense.
With the scores equal each squad lifted but Strikers looked the more comfortable of the two. Sitting high up the pitch they remained in control.
Di Sipio had a good shot at a winner but his mistimed strike proved to be easy pickings for the Fire goalkeeper Antony Hall.
As the clocked ticked over the 90 minute mark it looked as though the scores would stay level. Yet out of nowhere in the 92nd minute Brisbane found the winner they so deserved.
Ryan Mottin pumps up the home crowd
The Fire conceded a free-kick on the left side of their half. Hews had been on song from set pieces all night and his cross was perfectly placed once more. There in the box, tall man Ben Griffin met the ball with his head and ruffled the net. Brisbane 2-1.
The crowd erupted into hysterics; the yellow submarine chant was sung loud and proud. Just a minute more passed before the final whistle was blown. Brisbane had achieved redemption after last week’s heart-breaking defeat.
“I think last week the occasion got the better of a few of our guys,
“They only had four or five chances and they buried four of them, so they deserved to win last week,” Jonti Richter said.
“This week we really turned it around with our effort and our commitment and we won a lot of second balls. So yeah I think we really deserved our win.”
Travelling up to the Fire’s home ground next weekend, Richter knows it’s not an easy road ahead with past failures looming large in Strikers memories.
“It’s a one-off match and Sunny Coast have proven over the history of the QSL that they’ve got the titles. Brisbane Strikers have had better teams than anyone and we’ve failed in the finals so it’s a different kettle of fish all together,” he said.
But Richter says the Strikers are ready and up to the challenge.
“We’re really looking forward to a big performance and finally getting that grand final win for the Brisbane Strikers.”

Match Highlights courtesy of Football Queensland.

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