Strikers Take Silver Boot As NPL Season Beckons

Jan 27, 2018 by

The Brisbane Strikers claimed what they hope will be merely their first silverware for 2018 with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Lions FC in the Kappa Silver Boot final at Lions Stadium tonight.

The result reversed the scoreline between the two teams in the 2016 final as Strikers withstood a late onslaught from the home team after taking a 2-0 lead through second half goals to substitute triallist Dennis Yongale and Michael Lee.

Former Brisbane Strikers captain Jonti Richter, on the comeback trail after a season out of the game, scored against his old club in the eighty-third minute to reduce the deficit and set up a tense closing ten minutes. But Strikers, and particularly goalkeeper Tomi Mesaric, stood tall under the hosts’ pressure to close out the victory.

It is doubtful that any Strikers eleven has seen less of the ball in the opening half of a game than Michael Angus’s men did tonight as Lions’ swarming press choked the life out of any Strikers possession and kept the hosts on the front foot.

But while Lions’ fast-paced assault made Strikers chase plenty of ball they were unable to find a way through or around the Strikers’ back four of Sam Knight, Greig Henslee, Michael McGowan and Hiroki Omori. So Mesaric, although kept busy dealing with crosses and scraps, did not have a serious save to make before the Strikers headed somewhat gratefully to their dressing room for the half time break.

When the two teams re-emerged for the second stanza it was as if the first had not happened. Strikers were immediately on the front foot as Lions’ first-half press appeared to have taken its toll on their energy levels.

Lee unsuccessfully tried his luck at finding the top corner of Lions goalkeeper Luke Borean’s goal after midfielder Ryan Palmer had sent him scampering away through the inside-left channel as the game opened up.

It was then that Strikers fullback Hiroki Omori began to leave his mark on the game. Omori’s low cross from the left created an excellent chance for Yongale to open the scoring, and the youngster met it with a firm inside-of-the-foot first time finish only to see Borean react brilliantly at close range to keep out the shot.

But the Strikers duo were not to be denied and when they repeated the dose in the seventy-first minute Borean was unable to keep out Yongale’s near post finish to Omori’s cross and the visitors had the lead.

Five minutes later Omori was at it again, this time drifting infield to deliver a killer through-ball for Lee to stride on to. With Lions’ defenders giving forlorn chase Lee close in on Borean’s goal and slid his shot effortlessly past the ‘keeper and into the bottom right of his goal to double Strikers’ lead.

Lions responded well, lifting their output again under coach Warren Moon’s enthusiastic exhortations, and when Richter arrived just outside Strikers’ six-yard box to blast a low cross from Jacob Alexander past Mesaric, leaving the ‘keeper with no chance, it was ‘game on’ again for a tense ten minutes in which Strikers had to dig deep to repel a resurgent home team.

Lions clattered a header against Mesaric’s crossbar as they commenced an aerial bombardment before the ball was eventually cleared by desperate Strikers defending.

When Mesaric bravely flung himself to his left a few minutes later to palm away a header back across goal after Lions had crossed to the back post, and was ‘collected’ in the process by Richter, the home team’s last chance to save the contest had been resisted.

Strikers were then able to claim the winners’ trophy of a tournament they last won in 2013.

After accepting the silverware on his team’s behalf, Strikers skipper Michael Angus declared his team was in the right frame of mind for the task of taking on champions Western Pride in the first round of the 2018 NPL season next Saturday at Perry Park.

“They are always tough games against Lions, especially here,” Angus said. “They’re a good footballing side, let’s not doubt that. In the first half they had the majority, possession-wise, and we had to deal with that. And that’s probably been a different sort of test for us.

“You have to ride that out and collectively defend and then work your way back into the game. After half time we took a bit more of a stance on the game and with the scoreline the way it was, it opened up towards the end and they had to throw the kitchen sink at us. That’s what they did and it could have gone any way, really.”

Angus said that Strikers had eventually caught Lions out on the quick counter-attack after the willing running of Zac Maltby and Yongale had helped wear them down.

“Dennis has come on and he’s made an impact, making runs in behind,” Angus said. “But don’t get me wrong – Zac made so many runs in the first half, he worked so hard and that just slowly stretches a team. Gaps started to open up that way and that’s pretty much where we got them – on the transition and getting in behind with early deliveries.

“Hiro (Omori) put a couple of early crosses into the box and they are dangerous balls and really tough to deal with and that’s where the goals came from”.

The focus for Strikers now shifts to next weekend’s mouth-watering clash with Pride, with Angus professing that the Silver Boot tournament had primed his team for the challenge.

“It always takes a few games into the season to get yourself up to a hundred percent but we can take a lot of confidence out of this,” Angus said.

“In the whole tournament we had different types of games – some where we had much more possession and some where we didn’t and where we had to ride through and game-manage.

“That’s all part and parcel of it. We’re looking good and we’re confident”.
In the earlier game tonight Moreton Bay United shaded Brisbane City 2-1 with a stoppage time winner proving the difference between the two teams.

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