It was a cold night in Brisbane as local NSL legends and current NPL side Brisbane Strikers took on our Kiwi A-League brethren Wellington Phoenix at the ever-charming Perry Park. In all seriousness, the weather had been bloody beautiful lately but turns as soon as football is back. Does the weather work for the AFL now?
Both sides were evenly matched from the get-go, as the rain continued to pour down. Strikers looked confident and so they should, with wonder kid Andrew Pengelly in their ranks. Pengelly has scored a whopping (yes, whopping) 36 goals this season. THIRTY SIX. Three-Six. An absolute gem.
Strikers looked more likely to draw first blood, as Omari and McLean linked up to test Marinovic early on but the keeper had them covered. The Nix first real chance doesn’t come until the 16th minute as Ball has a shot from close range but Bon Scott was looming for the save.
Just 25 minutes in and Brisbane strikes first. Omari cleans up from the edge of the box after some poor Nix defending to slot home the first goal of the night. Both sides had a few more chances on goal before the end of the half, include a Fraser Hills effort just before half time but Strikers hold their 1-0 lead going into the break.
HT: STR 1 – 0 WEL
As the second half resumes the Nix look a little more put together. A few early attempts look promising but Strikers have the crowd behind them.
Strikers with a corner in the 55th minute that is headed away as far as Pengelly. We know he’s a goal scoring machine so it’s no surprise when he shoots low into the bottom left corner through a crowded box to double their lead.
Going two nil down seemed to be the spark that reminded the Nix they were playing a football match and needed to score some goals. After winning a free kick, Rufer finds new strikers David Ball in the box. Ball heads the ball towards Devlin who makes no mistakes from close range.
The Kiwis make it 2-2 in the 71st minute through McCowatt with a shot just outside the area to beat Scott and you just know this game is going to extra time. Sure, both teams give their best crack to bag the winner but it’s cold and wet so extra time is a given.
There were two big events in extra time. The first is Ball stepping up to take a pen that would surely hand Nix the victory in the 105th. All of a sudden Strikers juniors are running to get behind the goal to wave their arms around and put him off. A brilliant tactic but Scott had it covered on his own, not only blocking the pen but stopping the rebound as well.
It then all kicks off in the 110th minute as tensions are high between the two teams. I can’t remember who tackled who to start it but it’s entertaining and yellow cards are given in the aftermath.
As extra time comes to an end and pens loom, it looks like the entire crowd relocated behind the goals. Surely there were some Nix fans in their midst, but they did nought to help their team get through. After Ball skied his effort and Scott delivered another brilliant pen save the Nix were done. Strikers were clinical putting away all four attempts to win the shootout 4-2.
Commiserations to the Phoenix and their new gaffer Ufuk Talay, may the A-League bring you better luck (unless you’re playing the Roar).
FT: STR 2 – 2 WEL (4-2 on Pens)
By Bree Reidy
Featured Image from FTBL.com.au