It was a cool Wednesday night down at Perry Park with flying ants in the air and scorch marks still visible on the pitch, after flares post-NPL grand Final on Sunday night. A perfect night for football, with wildlife everywhere, from zebras on the pitch to flying ants in the air and Peacock in the stands.
Victorian NPL outfit, Moreland Zebras made the midweek trek up to Brisbane for the FFA Cup Quarter final bringing a small group of B. Juventus supporters with them, flag and all. The match against Brisbane Strikers started quietly, but the intensity picked up as Strikers began having shots on goal after some very quick build up play. Chance after chance was saved by ex-Strikers now Moreland goalkeeper Fraser Chalmers, the Brisbane side unable to find a hole in his keeping. The first goal finally came in the 27th minute from Strikers Midfielder Fraser Hills tidily finishing a nice cutback from Ryan Palmer, who would go on to produce a man of the match performance.
The first half highlight for me was sitting in the stands with a group of U19 national’s referees who had the Assistant Referee and Fourth Official as coaches for the last few days. The joyful commentary of these kids finally being able to critique their coaches, and the enthusiastic clapping whenever their instructors made a call is a unique experience to have. I’m sure the referees were glad to finally have their own fans in the crowd, as sardonic as they may have been at times.
Man of the match, Ryan Palmer, scored Strikers second goal just before half time, giving them a comfortable lead over Zebras.
As the second half began, fans returned to their seats with burritos from the canteen, the dishonest horses didn’t take long to strike their own blow, with Thomas Barforosh converting a chance early in the second half. It didn’t take long for Strikers to return the favour, Palmer scoring his second of the night after some perfect build up play that went awry in the box, luckily Palmer is a man who knows how to finish. The intensity grew as the Zebras grew more desperate to score, their coach receiving a yellow as well as a number of their players and some Strikers players along with that. It seemed there had to be more in this match, it turns out it was in fact Moreland. With less than 10 to go Moreland netted their second goal of the night to bring the heat up for the last stretch of the game. It seemed sure they would equalise, but Strikers just wouldn’t let them penetrate again, they held strong in defence and countered with aggression to force Moreland back into their own half.
Strikers saddled those zebras like horses and rode them into the semi-final of the FFA Cup. Brisbane will play host to the first FFA Cup Semi Final in Brisbane in the Cups history. It just shows, when you sacrifice points in your local competition to focus on the FFA Cup you could just be lucky enough to host an A-League team with less fans than your own at home in a cup semi-final.
Well done Strikers, as a Brisbane native it’s good to see a local team achieve. Have a safe float home Moreland Zebras.
By Kianna Aquilina