Brisbane Strikers are just the third Queensland team to qualify for the FFA Cup Quarter Finals since its inception, after a riveting 1-0 win over Manly United at Perry Park last night in the Round of 16.
In front of 1,240 spectators, the NPL Queensland side showcased their fighting spirit against the New South Wales NPL outfit to ultimately book their spot in the Quarter Finals.
It was a slow, goalless first half that consisted of both sides taking chances when they could. The away side were strong on the counter and relied heavily on Dejan Pandurevic on the right wing.
The former Young Socceroos player had a few strong chances but ultimately couldn’t convert them to goals.
However, a chance for the Manly side came in the 26th minute when Brendan Cholakian attempted a barrelling bicycle kick. Strikers’ star keeper Bon Scott stopped the shot and maintained his clean sheet for the match.
Similarly, Andy Pengelly was a formidable force for Strikers but couldn’t find a goal to break the deadlock.
A close chance came in the 34th minute when Pengelly drove the ball towards the top right corner before Manly keeper Dylan Mitchell tipped it over the bar in a bold save.
With the score at a tight 0-0, both teams went into the second half ready to make a change.
The score remained deadlocked for the first 15 minutes of the second half until a chance came in the 60th minute.
Manly’s Sam Gallagher challenged Strikers captain Jake Mclean in a daring tackle which led to a free kick.
Through the set piece, McLean drove a cross through the box towards a sea of players when Strikers centre back Matt Richardson leaped for the header and successfully converted.
Once the home team snagged their goal, they fell back to defensive tactics to maintain their lead.
A staggering eight yellow cards were handed out during the match, even resulting in Strikers’ Scott Halliday being sent off in stoppage time after he was given his second yellow.
The away side had their fair share of opportunities to equalize with players like Cholakian and Pandurevic taking chances on both the left and right wings.
The team had a few free kicks towards the pointy end of the 90 minutes and even threw forward keeper Mitchell to increase their goal scoring chances.
But despite their best efforts, Manly United couldn’t find a way to equalise the score, leaving Strikers to claim the win and book a spot in the FFA Cup Quarter Finals for the club’s first time.
Speaking after the game, Strikers’ Head Coach Owen Baker commended his team’s efforts for staying composed throughout the tightly-contested game.
“Anything can happen in club football. We knew Manly were a very good team and we knew it was going to be a close game,” Baker said.
In terms of progressing through to the Quarter Finals, he was humbled by his team’s achievement.
“We’re just proud to be there. We think Brisbane Strikers deserve to play on the national stage and we’re just honoured to be there. The boys deserve to be there.”
For their Quarter Final match, the Brisbane Strikers are set to host the Moreland Zebras, who knocked out fellow Queensland side Magpies Crusaders in their Round of 16 match.
Words: Vivien Topalovic
Image: Albert Perez/Getty Images