QSL: Gold Coast Stars brushed aside by Acadamy

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Gold Coast Stars’ horror season has worsened, copping a seven goal hiding at the hands of the Queensland Academy of Sport at Meakin Park on Sunday.

The 7-0 walkover means Josh McCloughan’s ever-improving QAS side have extended their winning streak to four matches, quelling any concern of a loss of momentum following last weekend’s bye.

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If they weren’t envious of the individual talents of their opposition, Gold Coast would certainly have wished they could field an eleven as consistent in personnel as the Academy, who again lined up with a familiar teamsheet and 4-3-3 shape.

When left-winger Josh Riis, part of a pacy front trio, got the afternoon’s scoring underway in just the 7th minute, the match’s evident flow indicated a cricket score was on the cards. However, for all their attacking intent, control of possession and ease in defence, it took the home side another 27 minutes to double their tally.

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A crowd featuring fewer family members and of greater expectation might have become discontent with the profligacy of the youngsters, who will will need to find ruthlessness in front of goal at key moments if they’re to impact finals. It’s little wonder why McCloughan acknowledged the support of dedicated parents in his pre-match programme notes.

The first of the QAS’ flurry of wasted chances was undeniably the worst. After the right-sided combination of Alistair Quinn and Brandon Borello worked a one-two to get in behind Stars left-back Josh Longhitano, Quinn’s low cross looked certain to be tapped in at the far post by Kwame Yeboah, but the focal point of the Academy attack swept his simple tap-in wide of an open goal. Borello went closer moments later, although his classy left-footed curler was denied only by the upright.

The home outfit were exuding superiority by this point, stretching the pitch beyond the reach of Gold Coast’s besieged fullbacks through Ross Archibald’s impressive distribution and the work-rate of fellow midfielders Ben Liftin and Jack Bladen. Despite their comfortable position, Archibald’s evident desire for perfection didn’t safeguard his teammates from criticism. Minor errors aside, the QAS eleven had worked hard to control all facets of the match, including shackling strongly-built Stars midfielder Filip Nechifor.

The Academy’s superiority finally translated into a second goal eleven minutes from the break. When the influential Liftin created a turnover just forward of halfway and pierced the fractured Gold Coast defence, Yeboah’s speed and cleverness in rounding ‘keeper Karim Sokarno left him with another clear tap-in. This time he made no mistake.

Sokarno’s persistent goalkeeping coupled with attacking indecision cost the QAS thrice more before half-time as, incredibly, only two goals separated the sides.

The youngsters, however, got to work much quicker after the interval. Patrick Theodore made it 3-0 just two minutes after the restart, using his body to turn in Borrello’s cross after the exciting winger outpaced his marker, before Theodore then darted in behind the static Stars defence to collect Yeboah’s through-ball and laser his second in six minutes into the far corner. The glut of goals wasn’t over yet, though, as by the 55th minute it was 5-0 when Theodore, who clearly had his half-time oranges, caused more misery for the opposition defenders by winning possession in the Gold Coast penalty area and laying on a pass for Liftin, whose saveable low effort slipped through the hands of Sokarno. The goal came as great delight for the vocal Liftin clan.

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You could sense that both sets of players might have agreed to an early finish from the hour mark as the minutes ticked by with little incident, despite a cool breeze refreshing tired bodies and catching out unprepared writers.

Substitute Kodjo Afan offered a glimmer of light for the visitors when he tested QAS ‘keeper Matthew Stein’s concentration with a searing low drive just wide of the post, sandwiched by two Academy strikes against the woodwork. But they weren’t to be denied a sixth as striker Sam Wilkinson entered play and was presented with a tap-in following Borrello’s parried shot ten minutes from the final whistle. Liftin found time in that period to pass up a potential hat-trick by twice adding to the QAS’ litany of unthinkable misses before fullback Quinn added a seventh and finishing touch to the scoreline in stoppage time.

Realistically, the final 7-0 beating should have hit double figures, portraying a rate of rapid improvement for the QAS, whose stunning form reversal has them firming for a top four spot. The near future of the Stars, however, seems a universe away from a revival of any magnitude.

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