Brisbane City Grand Final Bound
Brisbane City are the first team to secure a place in next weekend’s NPL Queensland Grand Final after defeating Sunshine Coast Fire 2-0 in extra time of their elimination semi-final on Saturday night.
Buoyed by a vocal home end crowd, Kenneth Dougall broke the deadlock after 103 minutes when his innocuous shot caught a lucky deflection to sneak in at the near post.
A straight red card to Fire’s Paul Arnison for a reckless challenge shortly after took the sting out of a tense finale before Daniel Sharov sealed the result for the hosts with five minutes remaining – the burly striker slotting a first time shot from the top of the box.
City will play the winner of Sunday’s second elimination semi-final between Olympic FC and Brisbane Strikers at Goodwin Park – ensuring an all-Brisbane finale to the inaugural NPL Queensland season.
Following their 6-1 defeat against Fire at the same venue only four weeks ago, City started tentatively against a Sunshine Coast side eager to take the game to the hosts.
Fire forward Leon Dwyer almost gave the visitors the perfect start, pouncing on an errant back pass after four minutes only to see his shot saved by City gloveman Matthew Stein.
Dwyer saw a second chance skew just wide of the post on 18 minutes when his volley from the top of the box took a deflection inside a crowded penalty area.
Growing into the game, City fashioned their first genuine chance on 24 minutes when skipper Matt Biggins placed his diving header wide from eight yards following an enterprising forward run.
Half chances fell for both teams before the break - Dwyer and Wade Zammit shooting wide of the target for Fire, while timely interventions from defender Greig Henslee continued to deny star City striker Antonio Murray.
However, the balance tilted following the break as City began to assert themselves on the contest.
Murray found his range by forcing Fire goalkeeper Antony Hall into a fingertip save from a free-kick shortly after the restart. Whilst Alistair Pase and Nathan Bird emerged as threats down the flanks as City attempted to stretch the visitors.
Fire remained in the contest but without luck – Nico Bechar’s corner kick floating across the face of goal without a touch from either side as the match neared the hour mark.
Bechar popped up again shortly after, delivering a neat cut-back pass to Alex Barlow, who subsequently blazed his shot over the bar.
Fire continued to threaten, but wayward finishing saw the visitors spurn several chances before Sharov came agonisingly close with a headed effort for City shortly after replacing Bird in the 80th minute.
City’s home ground advantage told in extra time as they attacked the home end – Sharov denied by the linesman’s flag and Hall saving a sharp shot from Murray before Dougall’s goal ultimately turned the match in City’s favour.
Earlier in the afternoon, City’s Under 20’s team also secured an appearance in their end of season decider, coming from two goals down to defeat cross-town rivals Olympic FC 3-2.
Sam Wilkinson made amends for a first-half penalty miss when he struck the deciding goal in the final ten minutes for the hosts, adding to Kai Smith's 51 st minute strike and an own goal.
Olympic took a first half lead courtesy of strikes to Callum Yap and Costa Psaros, but lost their momentum during a long injury delay midway through the half – Olympic's Jayden Hellyer landing awkwardly on his neck after mistiming his challenge on the right wing.
Hellyer was taken by ambulance to hospital where he was later cleared of serious spinal injury.
In the early kick-off, Queensland Academy of Sport benefitted from a contentious late penalty to see off Brisbane Strikers 3-2 in the Under 18 semi final.
Jesse Daly converted his own spot kick for Academy with five minutes remaining to cap off a stellar display from the youngster, who also scored the opening goal in addition to earning the penalty for the second, subsequently converted by Thomas Schultz.
Shelford Dais scored a double for Strikers in a head-turning performance for the losing side.
NPL QUEENSLAND – SEMI FINAL 1 RESULTS
Saturday, 31 August 2013 - Spencer Park
Brisbane City 2 (Kenneth DOUGALL 103’, Daniel SHAROV 115’)
Sunshine Coast Fire 0
Brisbane City U20’s 3 (Kai SMITH 52’, own goal 77’, Sam WILKINSON 83’)
Olympic FC U20’s 2 (Callum YAP 11’, Costa PSAROS 38’)
Brisbane Strikers U18’s 2 (Shelford DAIS 44’ 53’)
Qld Academy of Sport U18’s 3 (Jesse DALEY 17’ 83’p, Thomas SCHULZ 19‘p)
Words: Michael Flynn (Football Queensland)
Image: Keith Eigeland