Strikers claw back final berth
A MAJOR semi-final clash between the Hyundai Queensland State League’s two top sides went into extra time to break the deadlock in Gympie at the weekend.
Hosted by Football Gympie at the One Mile Ovals Sunday afternoon, Brisbane Strikers FC defeated Queensland State League premiers Sunshine Coast Fire 2-1.
The win has ensured the Brisbane Strikers a home grand final at Perry Park in a fortnight and a week off while the side waits for the question mark to be lifted on its opponent.
Facing defeat was a bitter blow for the Fire, heading into the game confident of a win after finishing the regular season on top of the competition ladder.
The loss has denied the Sunshine Coast team yet another chance at hosting a Queensland State League final and the team must now beat the North Queensland Razorbacks at home this weekend at Stockland Park to advance.
The winning result in Gympie for the Strikers was achieved under a cloud of controversy when a disputed penalty helped hand the team the win in extra time.
Looking as though the win was in the bag with 10 minutes remaining on the game clock, Fire players were left hot-headed after a penalty decision let the Strikers claw their way back before stealing the win.
Fire player Jai Cross was ruled to have brought down Brisbane’s Sean Burke, giving Matt Thurtell a penalty shot at goal.
Keeper Anthony Hall had successfully stopped 21 previous shots at the Fire’s goal but wasn’t able to block the Strikers’ penalty kick. It was a miss that proved costly.
The penalty decision enraged Fire coach Aston Bell, who could only look on in horror as Burke put away a shot on goal 12 minutes into extra time to seal a Brisbane victory.
“I’m feeling a bit dejected right now,” he said.
“It was a really poor, poor penalty. It was a poor decision.”
Bell said his players could take heart from their performance despite the result.
“I can’t ask any more from my players,” he said. “They gave it everything.”
Strikers coach David Large was pleased with the win but expected to see the Fire again for the grand final for yet another thrilling chapter of the rivalry burning between the league’s top two teams.
Large also expressed a different view to the Fire coach on the contentious penalty decision.
“I thought it was a penalty,” he said simply.
Brisbane Strikers 2 (Matt Thurtell, Sean Burke) d Sunshine Coast Fire 1 (Shaun Blackman)
Minor semi-final: North Queensland Razorbacks 2 defeated Far North Queensland Bulls 1