Brisbane Strikers matched Perth Glory in all areas of the field at Perry Park last night, as the match ended in an exciting 0-0 draw. In a very even affair the result was largely justified and both teams should be happy with their performances. The Strikers are still yet to win at home but the manner in which they have been playing is surely keeping the fans optimistic.
In the very first minute of the match Matt McKay got into the Glory area and his shot from an acute angle went into the waiting arms of Jason Petkovic. Even with this early chance Brisbane started the match with many stray passes and Perth seized control of the opening minutes. Perth was playing with all the confidence that had won them the NSL title last season. In the 9th minute Bobby Despotovski took a snap shot from a short corner, which just went wide of the post.
After ten minutes of play Brisbane began to find their rhythm and their passing game kicked into gear. What Stuart McLaren had worked on in training was paying dividends as Brisbane's switching of the ball from one end to another was leaving Perth's midfield bewildered. In the 14th minute, after some excellent passing and movement in midfield, Steve Fitzsimmons took on Jade North on the right hand side. The young Australian international was left for dead, but Fitzsimmons' cross-shot went just over the bar.
Brisbane was playing some excellent football in midfield, however Shaun Murphy and Mark Byrnes stood like two pillars at the back and there was no way past them. Perth looked dangerous on the counter attack as they attempted to use the pace of their front men. With Brisbane pushing players forward to support the man with the ball, Perth was able to exploit the space left at the back. In the 34th minute Despotovski received a long ball, which he skillfully flicked on to Brad Hassell. Hassell was free on goal, but Kearton came charging out and got something onto the ball to deflect it wide.
With the Perth defense standing firm the Strikers were resigned to long range shooting. In the 38th minute, David Pilic received the ball, after some wonderful build up play, and took it forward to hit a hopeful shot from 35 yards out. Petkovic was well placed and the ball went straight to him.
The 41st minute saw the best opportunity of the match. Brisbane was once again found light at the back, after a superb long ball from Tom Pondeljak. Despotovski was free to latch onto Pondeljak's ball, and took a shot from inside the area. However, to the home crowds' joy the ball sailed over the bar. Despotovski will feel he should have done better with his effort while the Strikers breathed a sigh of relief.
The first half proved to be an even affair. Perth started the stronger of the two sides, however when Brisbane managed to put their passing game together they dominated midfield. Perth's defense held firm and Brisbane, despite a few errors in marking, also looked strong at the back. The first half was one for the purists with little goal mouth action. There was an excellent turn out for the match and the crowd was supporting the Strikers avidly throughout the game.
Perth came out in the second half with a point to prove. The NSL champions imposed their game on Brisbane, and the Strikers were forced to defend. In the 47th minute Pondeljak put a good ball down the left to Damian Mori. Mori raced into the area and hit an angled shot across the goal face, but went wide of the far post. Mich D'Avray gave orders for his left and right backs took get forward at half time and Jamie Coyne was full of forward running. In the 51st minute Coyne used his pace to beat Stefanutto on the right hand side. He crossed it in for Horsley who brought the ball down and laid it off to Pondeljak, who hit a well placed shot that went just wide of the upright.
Even though Perth came out the stronger in the second half Brisbane were defending well and still using their fluent passing game to get forward. In the 53rd minute some excellent passing down the left led to Rose's intricate flick on to Stefanutto. Stefanutto was brought down on the corner of the 18 yard box, much the same position which Pilic scored from last week. Pilic once again took the free kick in exactly the same fashion he had done a week earlier. He placed the ball once again to the far top corner, however this time Petkovic was equal to the shot and palmed the ball around the post for a corner. It was a mirror image of last week's free kick, but unfortunately for the home side without the same result.
The game started to open up as the distance between the attacking players and the defending players widened. This left a lot more space in midfield which both teams attempted to take advantage of. In the 54th minute Horsley steamed forward and hit a low shot wide of the post. Four minutes later, Josh McLoughan headed a Matt McKay free kick just over the bar.
The action was end to end as the game was being played at a frantic pace. Yet both defenses still stood firm. Stuart McLaren was leading by example for Brisbane while nothing could get past Shaun Murphy. As neither team could penetrate the defenses, new life was injected into the game. In the 67th minute Royce Brownlie replaced Joshua Rose up front. Eight minutes later Steve Fitzsimons came off for Louis Brain. Perth also made changes towards the end of the game, making a double substitution. Srhoj and Hassell came off and were replaced by Bingley and Caceres.
Caceres and Brain proved to be the liveliest of the substitutes as they used their pace and skill to get wide and beat defenders. However neither could create any clear-cut opportunities for their sides.
As Perth began to tire Brisbane went forward looking for a last minute winner. In the 87th minute Peter Grierson hit a half volley which dipped at the last second, but, cruelly for the home fans, went over the bar. The Perth defense withstood the Brisbane onslaught in the later part of the match, and it ended 0-0.
The second half was more open then the first, with Perth dominating the majority of it. Brisbane did look dangerous when in possession but couldn't penetrate the Perth defense. Perth tried to get around the Brisbane defenders by getting their wing backs into forward positions. However the Brisbane defense was always equal to the task and no real opportunities eventuated. The 0-0 score line does not portray the pace and intensity that this match was played at, yet the result was clearly justified as both teams were even throughout the match.
The Brisbane fans came out in force last night and have certainly enjoyed the spectacle put to them. The last minutes of the game saw many fans with their hearts in their mouths, but unfortunately, Brisbane was not able to convert. An even bigger crowd for the Strikers' next home game would surely not be a surprise.