Three deserved and much needed points for the Strikers to keep their top six hopes alive for at least another week. On a night when the result mattered more than the performance, it was a competent and solid, rather than inspired, performance. Canberra didn't make things easy, but relied predominantly on defence, and didn't look like a side capable of having beaten Spirit last week.
Strikers attacked from the off, and as early as the first minute Knezevic had to look lively to keep out a strong 18 yard effort from McLaren. That set the tone for the first half, Knezivic against the Strikers attack, with the towering keeper looking likely to come out on top. Surprising, then, that he looked at least slightly at fault with the opening goal. A poor clearance from a corner fell to Knipe, but on his weaker left foot, and the shot wasn't the most difficult the keeper had faced. Although he got a hand on it, he couldn't stop it from trundling in. That was all Strikers could manage in the first half, although I dread to think what the possession statistics or corner count would have shown. On Cosmos' few raids upfield, they found Bolton in much more convincing mood than last Sunday, crosses from all angles and various distances from goal being handled with ease.
The second half saw a much more subdued Strikers performance. Knezevic was still the busier keeper, and still looking difficult to beat, so he won't be too pleased about Strikers' second goal. Meredith put plenty of power into his left foot strike from around 22 yards, but it looked too direct to trouble the keeper. However although he got both hands behind the ball, it flew off them into the net. At the other end, Bolton still looked convincing, in particular when he pulled one difficult cross down one-handed, Pat Jennings style.
Wayne Knipe wrapped things up with his second goal late on. Meredith didn't connect quite so cleanly with another strike, slicing it across goal. Knipe was first to react and toe-poked it beyond Knezevic.
There was still time for Strikers to give away their customary late goal. Wehrman, who had a very inconsistent game, lost possession again about 30 yards from his own goal, Canberra worked the ball from there down the left, and de Jesus beat Bolton comprehensively from a tight angle. With two goals still in hand, Strikers fans weren't too concerned, but they started to sweat a bit soon after when Laybutt dithered deep in Cosmos territory. Cosmos broke quickly down the left again, and a deep cross saw two men in space at the back post. Musitano's rocket, again from a difficult angle, only narrowly cleared the bar.
Too little, too late, though, and Strikers took all three points comfortably in the end. To add to Tom Sermanni's worries, Ivan Zelic left the field on a stretcher late in the game after an awkward fall over the back of a Strikers' player.
To end with a piece of trivia-when was the last time a player, in any sport, sang the national anthem before going on to take part in the game? I bet even Andrew Howe doesn't keep stats on that! Step forward, Wayne Knipe, who was on song before the game, and went on to score two goals during it. They could do worse than have him on a regular basis, I've certainly heard a lot worse versions of "Advance....". His voice is almost as sweet as his right foot!