Super-sub Joshua Rose sent the home fans delirious as Brisbane Strikers extended their unbeaten run at home this season with a 4-2 win over high-flying Parramatta Power at Perry Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Strikers¹ fans ³welcomed² back former heroes Clint Bolton and Fernando Rech for the match and both played crucial roles in the outcome.
Parramatta¹s star-studded lineup settled better, as heavy rain started almost straight from the kickoff. Gumprecht, Rech and Milicic were all threatening early, and the game had the feel that there could be lots of goals.
Parramatta were first on the scoreboard after 11 minutes. Ahmad Elrich¹s pace down the right flank had caused Brisbane early problems, but there didn ¹t seem to be a lot to worry about when he swung in a cross from a midfield position. Ante Milicic did very well to win the header, and even better to float it across Scott Higgins into the corner. Harsher critics than this writer might have faulted Higgins, but it was a very well taken goal.
Going a goal down livened up the home team, but they were having trouble creating much in the attacking third of field. As usual, the width and pace provided on the left by Shane Stefanutto was one of Brisbane¹s principal weapons, but Stefanutto wasn¹t able to supply the right final pass. Pressure was mounting on Clint Bolton in the Power goal, however, and in the 18th minute he spilt a Stefanutto high ball, and in the ensuing penalty box scramble saw the ball cleared off the line by Parramatta¹s fullback Sobczyk.
Parramatta continued to look dangerous, and could have gone two up when Milicic flicked a ball onto to Rech. Fernando¹s powerful shot was well saved by Higgins.
Brisbane got level in the 34th minute. Karl Dodd won the ball in midfield and surged forward, slipping a pass through to Louis Brain. Bolton could only palm away Brain¹s shot, and Warren Moon was quick to react and calmly slotted the equaliser.
Gumprecht for Parramatta and Brain for Brisbane continued to be the two most creative players on the field for the rest of the half and Buonavoglia¹s pace and elusive running was creating concern in the Brisbane defence.
Brisbane were fortunate to go to the break on even terms. The second half once again started in solid rain, the ball skidding around on the slippery surface.
It looked like former Striker Fernando Rech was going to be the game-breaker in the 58th minute, when Parramatta seized on a misdirected pass in midfield and broke forward quickly. Rech¹s shot from the edge of area was too good for Higgins, 2-1 to the visitors.
Strikers coach Stuart McLaren, sitting on the bench for this match after his red card against Marconi last week, decided it was time to act. He brought on Joshua Rose to add a bit more power up front. And Rose repaid his coach¹s faith in the 71st minute.
David Pilic¹s corner from the right was met by McCloughlan¹s header. Bolton once again saved but couldn¹t hold on, and Josh Rose was there for the crumbs. 2-2.
The rain got heavier and heavier until with about 10 minutes to go it suddenly cleared. It was time for the last throw of the dice. Which team wanted it more? Brisbane¹s Steve Fitzsimmons came on for a leg-weary Pilic. Parramatta replaced the excellent Peter Zorbas with Matthew Thompson.
And three minutes later Josh Rose snapped the offside trap, with a curved run onto Brownlie¹s through pass. With only Bolton to beat, he slid the ball under the keeper to put Brisbane into the lead for the first time in the game. Rose and his team-mates celebrated by sliding along the turf in front of the Strikers¹ fanatical singing section, the Torcida Banana.
Brownlie and Morley had been well shackled by Ceccoli and Beauchamp for most of the game, but it was the last few minutes of a game played in energy-sapping conditions that proved the difference. Brownlie did amazingly well with a tenacious attacking dribble, beating two defenders and ending up one-on-one with Bolton.
In a mirror image of a goal scored against Newcastle three weeks ago, Brownlie drew the keeper and passed square for his partner Luke Morley to knock the ball into the empty net. 4-2 and Parramatta¹s hitherto excellent defence had now leaked seven goals in two games.
Both teams played attacking football in the same 3-5-2 formation. Parramatta played purer passing football, and if they had made the most of their chances in the first half, probably could have gone on to win. But Brisbane looked at their best when they raised the tempo of the game, harrying the Power defence and midfield. Gumprecht, so influential in the first half, almost disappeared in the second, and Brain and Grierson increasingly ran the middle of the park.
Dodd, McCloughlan and Webber were quite solid in Brisbane¹s defence and made many telling intercepts for through balls to nippy Power striker John Buonavoglia. Jockey¹ got clear a couple of times in the second half, but on both occasions Scott Higgins made excellent saves.
Stuart McLaren would be well pleased with his charges on this display. Despite going behind on the scoreboard twice, they showed great character and determination to come back for a rousing home win.
The kickoff of this game was moved to a late afternoon start to avoid a clash with Rugby World Cup Final. Unfortunately, Australia although coming from behind a couple of times, couldn¹t find the juice to kick on for a win. The Brisbane Strikers however, will kick themselves up a couple of places up the table on the strength of this win.