On the night football came home, to Perry Park, the Brisbane Strikers put on a superb display in the 1-1 draw with Sydney Olympic. Brisbane will perhaps feel they should have got more from the game, in which they dominated large periods.
Sydney Olympic, for their part, were very solid in defence, led by their captain Ante Juric. They will certainly be happy with the away draw, against a well-organised and creative Brisbane side.
Early on Olympic pressed Brisbane, as the Strikers were finding their feet in the new environment. In the 2nd minute of the match, Jim Bakis was left free in the Brisbane area; he hit a cross-goal shot which went just wide of the
Opportunities in the first twenty-five minutes were few and far between, due to both defences being very well organised. As the game went on, the Strikers began to feel more comfortable in their new surroundings and they began to come forward from some good build up play. However, clear cut chances were still hard to come by.
In the 27th minute, a long throw from Pedrag Bojic, near the Brisbane corner flag, was only partly cleared by Karl Dodd. The ball fell to Pablo Cardozo, and his weak shot trickled past the post. It proved to be Cardozošs only significant contribution to the match, as Brisbanešs excellent marking kept him quiet. A minute later Denis Alilovic, who grew in confidence throughout the match, skipped past Peter Grierson and hit a tame shot straight into the waiting arms of Jason Kearton.
Brisbanešs set pieces were causing trouble for the Olympic defenders, and in the 30th minute a long throw by Shane Stefanutto saw Josh McCloughanšs header well saved by Peco Trajcevski. Brisbanešs excellent passing in midfield was forcing Olympic to defend in numbers. In the 32nd minute, after some beautiful one touch passing down the left, the ball was played inside to Dodd; he delivered an excellent through ball to David Pilic in the area. Pilic met the ball on the volley, and his well taken shot cruelly struck the post. It was the best chance of the match so far.
Once again Brisbanešs ability to be dangerous from set pieces was seen in the 46th minute. Stuart McLaren rose to meet Stefanuttošs corner, his well placed header hit the post for the second time in the match, but the follow up shot was blasted high over the bar.
The first half saw Olympic fly out of the starting blocks with some good early moments. However as the game went on, Brisbane started to press forward more and more. Brisbane ended the half the stronger, and was unlucky to not be in the lead. Both teams were very good in defence and the quality of football was of a good standard. The Strikers were spreading the play very well, with incisive passing and good movement. Olympic were relying on their three, very skillful, centre midfielders to get them forward.
The crowd was in fine voice during the first half and the beat of the samba added a South American flavour to the atmosphere. Even though there were few goal-scoring opportunities, the fans were impressed with the first half performance.
Brisbane began the second half exactly were they had left off in the first. In the 48th minute, after some intricate passing, the Strikers won a free kick on the corner of the 18-yard box. Pilic crossed a beautiful ball into the area, which McLaren headed just wide of the post.
Brisbane was in complete control, while Olympic couldnšt get out of their own half. The mounting pressure paid off in the 54th minute. Dodd played a delightful ball through the middle to Matthew McKay. McKay brought it forward, but was upended 25 yards from goal. From the resulting free kick, David Pilic touched the ball forward, Grierson stopped it, and Pilic struck a divine shot, which hit the inside of the right hand post and flew into the back of the net. Delirium hit Perry Park; as Brisbane Strikers were up 1-0. For the next ten minutes Brisbane was in full control, and it seemed as though nothing could stop them from recording a victory.
But in the 63rd minute shock resonated throughout Perry Park. The first time, in the second half that Olympic got into the Brisbane area, Jim Bakis chipped Jason Kearton from 12 yards out. The ball bounced into the goal and Olympic was on level terms. The goal, completely against the run of play, shell shocked the Brisbane Strikers. Olympic grew in confidence after the goal, and had more of the possession.
Brisbane brought on Warren Moon for Matthew McKay just after the goal and Moon slotted into the same position occupied by McKay for his debut in the NSL. Brisbane slowly began to get back into the match, however it was not the free flowing football seen earlier in the half. The 77th minute saw Michael Baird come on for Pablo Cardozo, and he received a 'warm' welcome from the Brisbane crowd. Soon after, the goal scorer, Pilic, was taken off for Louis Brain. The substitutes failed to spark any new life into the game, as both defences reigned supreme.
In an effort to press forward for a winner, Brisbane lost the ball in the Olympic half and was caught on the break. Michael Baird took the ball forward, but his shot went well over the bar. Time was running out for the Strikers, and they began to press forward more and more. In the 88th minute, Louis Brain took the ball down the right hand side. He hit a low cross which was only half cleared to Joshua Rose. Rosešs shot was deflected straight to Luke Morley on the edge of the six yard box. Unfortunately for the home team, Pedrag Bojic cleared Morleyšs shot off the line. It proved to be Brisbanešs best opportunity to win the game.
The move to Perry Park was a complete success. The team was superb, and the crowd was full of passion. The atmosphere around the ground was electric, and there is no doubt that transcended to the players. The intimate feel of Perry Park, and the Strikersš supporters' undeniable love for their team has contributed greatly in creating the special atmosphere felt at the game. Football has truly come home.