Omori Settles The Derby For Strikers

Jun 25, 2017 by

A first half goal to fullback Hiroki Omori earned the Brisbane Strikers three crucial points as the home side toughed out a 1-0 win over Brisbane City in the PlayStation 4 NPL local derby at Perry Park last night.

Omori’s decisive strike came in the thirty-eighth minute of a contest that was as tense and hard-fought as any derby should be – one that fully tested the Strikers’ resolve after late drama had intervened to force draws in both of their previous two home games.

But while City provided worthy opposition, particularly in the first half, Strikers were the dominant team and missed a series of second half opportunities to settle the contest before eventually grinding out the win with a mixture of watertight defending and improved game management.

A City team chasing a win to force their way into the top four started the game well, pressing Strikers hard when the home team had possession and working the ball fluently around the wide, open spaces of Perry Park when they had it themselves.

Strikers goalkeeper Zac Speedy, restored to the starting eleven after missing last weekend’s 2-2 draw with FNQFC Heat with an ear infection, was the first goalkeeper drawn into action. A fourth-minute corner directed by City to their back post was met with a solid header by City fullback Kai Smith, but Speedy showed his reflexes had not suffered from the week’s break, however, as he palmed Smith’s effort one-handed over his crossbar.

City were probably the sharper side in possession early on, forcing Strikers to do more defending than perhaps they are accustomed to at home, and looking particularly dangerous when midfielder Sam Sibatuara was on the ball on several driving runs from deep positions. But Strikers scrambled well when under pressure and for the most part kept City out of their penalty area.

It took Strikers almost thirty minutes to create their first scoring opportunity inside City’s penalty area and it came when right back Sam Knight found himself in space and with time to measure a cross towards Jeremy Stewart, whose header from about ten yards finished on the roof of City goalkeeper Bon Scott’s net.

Strikers forward Greg Cheshire then had a good chance when a Scott charged out of his penalty area to muff a clearing header that dropped into Cheshire’s path. But Cheshire appeared not to realise how much time he had at his disposal as he rushed a shot that drifted wide of Scott’s gaping goal.

It was then that Omori’s willingness to get forward at every opportunity began to exert an influence on the contest.
Combining with Stewart and midfielders Michael Lee and Jake McLean in the home team’s attacking third, the Strikers’ fullback regularly made a nuisance of himself around the edge of City’s penalty area and he forced Scott into a sharp save above his head to tip a goalbound shot over his crossbar in the thirty-sixth minute.

Two minutes later, however, Omori popped up in City’s area again on the end of a counter-attacking passing movement immediately after Strikers midfielder Ethan Docherty had blocked a shot from City centre forward Carter Glockner at the other end of the field. Omori had given City fullback Smith the slip and this time fired his shot low and hard into the far corner of Scott’s goal to give Strikers the lead.

The home team held its lead until half time and re-emerged to dominate the second half without being able to put City to the sword with a second goal.

The tireless Omori and Stewart were City’s chief tormentors, working the Strikers’ left channel hard to open up City’s defences on numerous occasions. But no reward came of it. Stewart shot tamely at Scott after combining with Omori before, at the other end, Speedy made a good one-handed save to deny City midfielder Scott Halliday’s first-time shot as a City free kick rebounded off Strikers’defensive wall.

That would be the last scoring chance City would have as Strikers took control. The home team could have gone further ahead twice between the fiftieth and sixtieth minutes. First Stewart controlled a raking crossfield pass from Cheshire before firing across goal with his left foot and then Scott made a miraculous close-range save to block Docherty’s shot as the midfielder met Cheshire’s cutback with a solid first-time side-footed attempted from eight yards.

Strikers midfielder Michael Lee was the next to miss, swivelling with the ball at his feet sixteen yards out from goal to shoot narrowly wide, before both coaches began using their bench. City coach John Kosmina brought on Simon Biel for Nathan Bird, Jason Park for Koh Satake and Owain Thomas for Glockner to try to shake things up, while Strikers coach Sean Lane introduced Shaun Carlos for skipper Michael Angus and Luke Marsh for Cheshire.

As City committed players forward as the minutes ran out Strikers were forced to defend, but still had the better scoring chances as the spaces opened up. Knight went ever-so-close when he dribbled inside a defender to try his luck with a left-footed curler that just missed the far top corner, and Stewart again fizzed his intended finish across goal after being found by another cross from Cheshire before the game went into its final minutes with Strikers still ahead by the single goal.

Try as they might, and did, City could not fashion a clear-cut chance over the concluding minutes as Greig Henslee and Jake Marshall stood firm at the heart of the home team’s defence. Meanwhile Omori and Knight shut down the flanks before working the ball upfield and into the corners where the close control and dancing feet of Lee, Omori and Stewart soaked up valuable time.

It was the tireless Stewart who had the last scoring chance on the breakaway, leaving a City defender gasping for air as he sprinted away down the touchline before closing in on Scott’s near post. But unfortunately for Stewart, who deserved a goal for his efforts, his finish was directed straight at the grateful keeper, who blocked the ball away in the last action of the game.

The win for Strikers, apart from earning the three points they so desperately needed to maintain their title challenge, also maintained an unbeaten league run that now stretches back three months to Round 5, when Gold Coast City beat them 4-2. It also continued Strikers’ dominance over City, giving them their seventh win in ten derby contests.

For City, however, the loss continued an inconsistent run that has seen them win three and lose four of their past seven matches. They remain just outside the top four.

“I thought the performance was good,” said Henslee later when asked to sum up.

“Brisbane City came up high, they pressed us and they tried to nullify us from playing out from the back and they have the players to do that – they’re a young, fit and well-coached side.

“They made things difficult for us getting through, but I thought we stuck to our game plan well. Laney just told us to keep getting the ball down, keep doing the things that have got us to this position so far, and I thought in the end we were deserving winners.”

Brisbane Strikers FC 1 (Omori, 38) v Brisbane City FC 0

Brisbane Strikers: Zac Speedy (gk), Jake Marshall, Greig Henslee, Ethan Docherty, Michael Lee, Michael Angus (c), Jake McLean, Jeremy Stewart, Sam Knight, Greg Cheshire, Hiroki Omori. Subs: Shaun Carlos, Luke Marsh. Coach: Sean Lane

Brisbane City: Bon Scott (gk), Greg King (c), Thomas Schulz, Kai Smith, Scott Halliday, Carter Glockner, Nathan Bird, Sam Sibatuara, Koh Satake, Motoki Kakehi, Mitchell Hore. Subs: Jason Park, Owain Thomas, Simon Biel. Coach: John Kosmina

Referee – Isidiro Terol

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