Wolves v Strikers

Round 12 report by Stephen Webb
Wollongong Wolves v Brisbane Strikers

Chimaobi Nwaogazi scored his third goal in as many games tonight to add a fourth in Wolves' run of games unbeaten. Brisbane became the latest of Wolves' top six scalps, though they were by no means as embarrassed as were Perth and Parramatta.

The game, started by an Anthony Mundine celebrity kick off, was marred by a cold, blustery wind. The first ten minutes saw scrappy play from both sides.

Adam Hughes did some neat stuff and then too much, losing possession. David Pilic had a hard time against Shane Lyons. Louis Brain had the first decent shot for Brisbane - a long one from the right across the penalty area. Brisbane were pushing the ball around while in possession and putting pressure on Wollongong when without. Lyons again beat Pilic and was fouled by Brain.

Jacob Timpano had a poke toward goal from 25 metres; it wasn't a bad effort and, with the swirling wind, ended up going just over the crossbar. Brisbane still looked more solid with the ball. Stuart Young made a good turn in midfield to evade three players but his ball through for Michael Hawrysiuk was too long. Young then received a ball heading for the right corner but was beaten by Josh McCloughan.

Timpano gave Shane Stefanutto too much room on Brisbane's left and Stefanutto easily rounded him and crossed.

In the 13th minute Stefanutto again easily beat Timpano and crossed. Wolves half cleared at the far post but when the ball came back Andrew Crews couldn't connect properly with his fists. Pilic crossed and Karl Dodd just missed with his head. The ball came out to an unmarked Brain who had an easy shot to score.

Brisbane almost looked surprised at how easy it was. Wolves responded with a header wide of goal from a Nahuel Arrarte free kick. Nwaogazi broke free on a through ball but stumbled and McCloughan caught him with little trouble. Pilic dazzled Stewart van Bentum with science. Adam Webber played Matt Hilton into the Wolves penalty area but Hughes stopped him.

Lyons crossed to Brisbane keeper Scott Higgins. This was typical of Wolves as they neared the Brisbane penalty area: the final kick was off or there was no-one there to receive it. Young and Arrarte worked hard to amend the situation. Lyons stopped Pilic again and Stefanutto was good hounding Arrarte. Pilic received a good ball down the right but Lyons intervened with an important touch.

Twenty-five minutes in and Brisbane had been on top. But Nwaogazi and Young found themselves in space near the edge of the Brisbane penalty area. Nwaogazi wasn't confident enough to take the ball himself and gave it to Young who didn't want it because he was offside.

Dodd blocked a van Bentum shot. Arrarte chipped in for Hawrysiuk who shot very high. Nwaogazi's slow reaction time seemed to be letting Wolves down. Another van Bentum shot was blocked and Lyons again crossed to Higgins. Hughes was very good chasing back and stopping Royce Brownlie after Brownlie had just beaten two other Wolves players.

While the Brisbane backs were doing a good job - there'd hardly been any threat at all to Higgins - the Wolves defence was only saved from embarrassment by some fortunate bounces. Hilton was good beating Blake and Brisbane almost stumbled the ball through to goal. Stefanutto crossed from the left corner straight to Brownlie in front of goal. Brownlie with no option to turn and shoot pushed the ball right to Pilic who shot high. Stefanutto hung wide left begging for the ball, knowing how free his passage down that flank would be.

Dodd was wonderful beating Nwaogazi and then Bobby Dragas out of the Brisbane corner. And Stefanutto made a silky run cutting in through midfield. A good run by McCloughan earned Brisbane a corner and a shot left of goal. Brownlie tried a shot on the turn from 25 metres that also went left of goal.

In the 40th minute Wolves made a comeback of sorts. Young - after a push through by Arrarte and some persistence by Young to retain the ball and find space - tried a right foot chip from outside the right of the Brisbane penalty area. The ball drifted to the top left corner of goal and Higgins made a great save, getting a hand to the ball as it was moving away from him.

Blake hit the top left corner of the goal frame from close range and then forced another fine save from Higgins. Blake hit a long drive and sent Higgins diving. From the corner Wolves headed over.

Referee Craig "yellow card" Zetter seemed to have moderated his card flashing habits; but, even though he was overcompensating for some earlier efforts, he still saw fit to ping Webber and the awkward-looking but effective Warren Moon. And he caught on that Wolves' long thrower Hawrysiuk was contributing too much with his right arm.

Wolves kept up the momentum at the start of the second half. Young switched the play to Timpano. Timpano fed Hawrysiuk who returned the ball to Young whose shot won a corner.

In the 46th minute Nwaogazi scored at Wolves' second stab at the far post on a ball headed on by Young from the left.

Wollongong were playing with more urgency and Brisbane were messing up more. Zetter was really disinclined to give any free kicks; much to the annoyance of Young who was pulled down on the edge of the Brisbane penalty area.

Hilton sent in a reasonable shot from the right that was heading just left of goal. Dragas made a nice tackle on Hilton but Brisbane won a corner that could have gone in three times but bobbled away for another corner.

Arrarte and Hawrysiuk did well down the right but Arrarte's cross came to nothing. Brownlie got a break when Hughes slipped after a long Wolves build up. Lyons and Dragas ran Brownlie down. And Brownlie was replaced by Josh Rose.

In the 65th minute Young turned in the box to shoot with his left foot but sent the ball to the left of goal. Stefanutto again got round Timpano but his cross was too long for Pilic who slipped over. (Stuart McLaren said the ground wasn't especially slippery; but that's not the way it seemed from the number of players who couldn't keep their feet.)

Rose found space wide of Dragas and shot left of goal. Arrarte seemed to lose some legs, sending van Bentum on a run but offering no support. Blake was very neat beating Rose and McCloughan was quick to stop Young running onto to a ball with a great scoring opportunity at the left post. Brain shot high on a Brisbane cross from the right. Young passed back to Hughes who hit a long shot to Higgins.

Young was having a near perfect game and still had legs but coach John Turner decided he was the one to make room for Liam Austin. Turner said he thought Nwaogazi would work better with Austin's quick running game. Brisbane had a free kick from 18 metres out on the left side of the Wollongong penalty area. Pilic shot over the crossbar.

Wolves' substitute for Timpano, Danial Cummins, beat Stefanutto. (Stefanutto later, complaining about the conditions, said he didn't think he had much more running in him.) Lyons played to Hawrysiuk who shot way too high. It wasn't to be one of Hawrysiuk's best games.

Blake made an athletic clearance. From a Brisbane corner a header glance far wide of goal. Steve DeGiovianniello got a cheer from the local fans for a leaping bicycle kick clearance in his own penalty area. Lyons broke down the left. Hawrysiuk had a chance from a couple of metres out but couldn't get onto the ball. Wolves then had a far post header fly across the face of goal; but it mightn't have counted anyway - the linesman's flag was up.

So a draw it was. And Nwaogazi again was the Wollongong supporters' hero.

Brisbane player-coach Stuart McLaren said that while he came to Wollongong for a win he was not disappointed with the result and thought it was a fair reflection of the game. "It took a minute or two to settle down but we had a period up to the half hour mark where we had most of the game. The goal came at a good time for us and it would have been great if we could have gone on and got another before half time. "But in the last five or ten minutes of the first half Wollongong got a few close run things themselves because we got a little bit slack and they obviously picked up the tempo and carried that on to the start of the second half. After that I thought it was fairly even." He said it didn't look like either side was settling for the point.

Turner said while the result helped neither side, overall he thought it was fair. "Both teams came here to play. Both teams play similar football. They are both hardworking sides. Both teams create chances." He said his lads had done very well to go four matches undefeated: "It can only get better from here. We're getting better as we go."