Olympic Turn Tables On Shot-Shy Strikers

Aug 11, 2018 by

Brisbane Strikers coach Owen Baker said a lack of bravery in the opposition’s penalty area had contributed to his team’s disappointing 2-1 loss to cross-town rivals Olympic FC at Perry Park tonight.

A week after crashing eight goals past Sunshine Coast Fire to keep their NPL Queensland finals hopes alive, Strikers found themselves unable to score against Olympic until the first minute of stoppage time as the visitors outsmarted and outmuscled them and, in all probability, snuffed out those finals hopes almost as soon as they had been rekindled.

Two second half goals from centre half Kristen Waters and winger Jez Lofthouse had Olympic 2-0 up and in control of the contest by the seventy-third minute, before substitute Greg Cheshire’s ninety-first minute goal gave Strikers something to show for their part in a game that rarely rose above the spectacle of an arm-wrestle.

But the home team had enjoyed a period of dominance in the opening half hour, and it was their failure to capitalise on this that left Baker a little downcast after the game.

“I felt we probably could have been a bit braver going into the final third. We tried to be too nice going into their box,” said Baker.

“We should have put Nick Mooney under a little bit more pressure in goals – taken more risks, had more shots – because if we did that something could have fallen our way. We had a good couple of half-chances. There were good entries into the box early, with Zach Maltby on the left hand side and Braedon Steel had a good arm-wrestle with Shane Stefanutto.

“But in big games like this there are fine margins and we didn’t make the most of that opportunity when we had it”.

As it turned out, Olympic goalkeeper Mooney did not have a serious save to make until Cheshire’s late contribution while, for that matter, Strikers custodian Tomi Mesaric was not overworked either, other than having to pick Waters’ and Lofthouse’s contributions out of the back of his net.

It was a game of few chances and of mostly inaccurate finishing when the chances did present themselves. Strikers’ strong opening half-hour failed to realise any reward before Olympic began to assert themselves in the contest over the closing fifteen minutes of the first half.

With midfielder Alex Smith becoming more involved in the play further forward for the visitors, their short passing game around Strikers’ penalty area improved and Strikers fullback Sam Knight and centre half Michael McGowan needed to produce some defensive desperation to block shots close to their own goal as Olympic began to threaten.

But Strikers survived until half time unbreached and supporters of both teams waited and wondered which team, when play resumed, would assert a claim for the three points they both desperately needed.

That team would prove to be Olympic, who came out and pressed Strikers into frequent error in their own half. Olympic’s pressure paid off with a series of corner kicks that troubled their hosts before Waters, not for the first time against Strikers at Perry Park, attacked the flighted dead ball with gusto to send a powerful header crashing into the back of Mesaric’s net, giving the young goalkeeper little chance of keeping it out.

With Olympic in front and continuing to outmuscle Strikers in the middle of the park, Baker made use of his substitutes bench, bringing on Cheshire and Michael Lee for Maltby and Brock Messenger.

But Olympic had the ascendancy and showed little sign of relinquishing it. When Strikers tried to play the ball out of their defensive third on the right side of the field in the seventy-third minute and skipper Michael Angus appeared to be caught in possession, Olympic moved in for the kill.

Midfielder Steve Whyte, having stolen the ball, squared a pass to Smith, who helped it on to the unmarked Lofthouse who was arriving in support beyond the back post. Lofthouse then applied the most clinical of finishing touches, sidefooting the ball first-time into the far corner of Mesaric’s goal with the ‘keeper diving at full stretch but unable to get a touch.

Strikers tried to respond, threading their way through Olympic’s midfield with McLean trying to pull the strings necessary to open up Olympic’s back four. But when Knight chimed in to an attack to force his way into Olympic’s penalty and went sprawling to the turf after what looked like a push from a defender, and referee Martin Krenes ignored Strikers’ penalty pleas, their last chance to pull off an unlikely comeback was gone.

It was left to McLean, still beavering away at Olympic’s stubborn defence in the ninety-first minute, to fashion a small measure of consolation as he outsmarted a defender to squeeze his way to Olympic’s byline. McLean pulled the ball back to the edge of the six-yard box where Cheshire saw his first attempted finish blocked, before following up to bury the rebound high into the back of the net.

Olympic controlled proceedings from there to see the game out and take the three points, avenging their 1-0 loss to Strikers at Goodwin Park earlier in the season and leaving Strikers stranded four points outside the top four with only two games to play.

Baker, disappointed though he was by some aspects of his team’s performance, acknowledged they had been beaten by the better team on the night.

“It was a close game but Olympic, certainly in the second half, got the edge over us and created more chances,” he said.

“In the first half it was very tight, and the game had waves where Olympic had pressure and we had pressure high up the field.

“But it was never going to be a high scoring game, and they obviously got the goal from the corner and it’s given them something to hang on to. The second goal was a mistake (from us), so we are obviously disappointed with the goals we conceded, but it was always going to be close tonight and Olympic played well and they deserved the win on the night, I believe.

NPL Queensland Round 24, Saturday 11 August, Perry Park: Brisbane Strikers 1 (Cheshire 90+1) v Olympic FC 2 (Waters 58, Lofthouse 73).

Brisbane Strikers: Tomi Mesaric (gk), Brock Messenger, Greig Henslee, Michael McGowan, Sam Knight, Hiroki Omori, Michael Angus (c), Jake McLean, Trent Clulow, Zach Maltby, Braedon Steel Subs: Michael Lee, Greg Cheshire, Josh Matcham. Coach: Owen Baker

Olympic FC: Nicholas Mooney (gk), Shane Stefanutto, Kristen Waters, Steve Whyte, Matt Mundy (c), Shelford Dais, Kazuya Ito, Kieran Sanders, Jez Lofthouse, Zelfy Nazari, Alex Smith Subs: Brendan Cuminao, Costa Psaros, Danny Byrne. Coach: Ben Cahn

Referee: Martin Krenes

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