Olympic FC will host the inaugural NPL Queensland Grand Final next weekend after defeating Brisbane Strikers 2-0 in their elimination semi-final at Goodwin Park on Sunday evening.
Two goals in two minutes midway through the second stanza to striker Tim Smits and defender Matt Byrne ulltimately proved decisive in an otherwise well-balanced and hard fought match.
Olympic, who finished the regular season as premiers, will now host cross-town rivals Brisbane City in next Sunday’s Grand Final at their Yeronga home ground.
Following a first half with few clear-cut chances, Smits broke the deadlock on 65 minutes after rising strongly to turn in Jai Ingham’s cross with a trademark header.
Defender Byrne slotted the second, and ultimately sealed the result, when he finished off a series of quick passes around the box to finish from 12 yards.
Strikers winger Jonti Richter ensured a dramatic finish following a far post tap-in from a Mario Aparicio parry at the death, but was adjudged offside to put paid to hopes of a grandstand finale.
Olympic showed their attacking intent from the kick-off, fashioning the first half-chance inside the opening minute; however, Strikers soon found a defensive resolve that frustrated the hosts, restricting the league’s best attack to speculative efforts from distance.
Kazuya Ito went closest from range when his 8th minute shot skewed wide of the post from 25 yards. The Japanese import later found the target from a free kick on 20 minutes, however was denied by Strikers goalkeeper David Chambers.
Approaching the half hour, Ingham and Smits combined for the first time with effect – Smits uncharacteristically missing the target from 12 yards with a headed effort amidst heavy defensive traffic.
The visitors withstood a goal mouth scramble shortly after – Chay Hews, Clark Bradford and Scott Coulson all charging down shots before Chambers collected a tame effort that forged through the traffic.
Strikers saw their best chance of the half five minutes before the interval, Josh Taylor evading Aparicio before the Olympic shot stopper scrambled to recover.
Strikers found their feet in attack in the second stanza, Richter and Taylor combining well two minutes after the restart only to see the final pass just out of reach.
On the hour, Taylor brought the Striker faithful to their feet with a wayward effort that got tangled in the side netting.
However, just as the visitors began to grow in confidence – Richter forcing Aparicio into a save with a solid strike from the top of the box – Smits pounced with his 27th goal of the season before mid-season signing Byrne settled the outcome with his first goal of the campaign.
Earlier in the afternoon, Toowoomba’s South-West Queensland Thunder booked a place in the Under 20’s decider with a dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Brisbane Strikers.
The teams were locked 3-3 at the end of a highly entertaining 90 minutes before Shelford Dais added to his two goals in yesterday's Under 18's Semi-Final with a strike seven minutes from end of extra time.
However, Matthew Carey levelled terms less than a minute later with a scorching 30 yard strike that sizzled into the top corner of the goal.
The bouyant Thunder held their composure to triumph on 5-4 in the shoot-out, goalkeeper Stuart Campbell proving the hero in the tense finale – saving the final Strikers penalty with a full-stretched save at the base of the left post.
In the Under 18’s, Brisbane City ensured they will be represented in all three NPL Queensland divisional deciders after defeating premiers Sunshine Coast Fire 2-0.
Ben Romyn capped off a match-turning performance at the top of the City formation, scoring the opening goal with a tap in at the far post from Davlyn Cleary’s cross-cum-shot before playing the final pass for Nixon Flanigan’s winner a minute from time.
Both the Under 20’s and Under 18’s Grand Finals will be played at Goodwin Park next Sunday as curtain raisers to the senior Grand Final.
NPL QUEENSLAND SEMI-FINAL 2 RESULTS
Sunday, 1 September 2013 - Goodwin Park
Olympic FC 2 (Tim SMITS 65', Matt BYRNE 67')
Brisbane Strikers 0
Brisbane Strikers U20's 4 (Martin DEVINE 33', Luke WATSON 66', Jarrod RAY 72', Shelford DAIS 113')
SWQ Thunder U20's 4 (Mitchell HUNTER 9' 90+1', Thomas FANNING 20', Matthew CAREY 114')
- SWQ Thunder win on penalties 5-4 -
Sunshine Coast Fire U18's 0
Brisbane City U18's 2 (Ben ROMYN 79', Nixon FLANIGAN 90')
Words: Michael Flynn (Football Queensland)
Image: Keith Eigeland
Last Modified on 21/09/2013 11:40