Rafe Griffin (@rafegriffin)
Brisbane City have scored a psychological edge to move into third place on the NPL table after a 2-1 victory over Redlands on Friday night at the Cleveland Showgrounds. Motoki Kakehi canceled out new recruit Alistair Davis’s goal for the home side shortly before halftime with Nathan Bird ultimately clinching the match for City with just over fifteen minutes to play.
The match got off to a slow start with events not beginning to open up until the 20th minute. Brisbane City’s Sam Sibatuara played on for Antonio Murray inside the box but a brilliant tackle from Kai Halliday halted any further progress.
Davis, who made the move from the Brisbane Strikers during the weekend break, could not have got his Redlands playing career off to a better start after he was at the end of a well-worked attacking move to tuck the ball past Tim Allen.
The guile of Graham Fyfe was on show minutes later as he launched an audacious attempt on goal after spotting the keeper off his line. Allen was able to backtrack in time and collect before the ball had the chance to dip under the bar.
The City defensive line continued to come under attack as firstly Davis tested Allen at full stretch and then Paul O’Brien narrowly slid a shot across the face.
In the dying minutes of the first half, the momentum shifted. Luke Pavlou and Murray interchanged in a sharp one-two play, Pavlou’s finish falling narrowly wide of the post.
Redlands defender Grant Brix gave away cheap ball in the heart of City’s attack, turning over straight to Nick Buckley whose shot was subsequently blocked.
Pavlou and Murray looked again to terrorise the Redlands defence, the latter drawing the best out of Redlands keeper Matt Lugo who saved well to deny Murray.
From the resulting corner, well directed by Sibatuara into the near post, Kakehi made the pressure tell to belt home a header to ensure his side would go into the break back on level terms at 1-1.
Shortly after halftime, Nico Bechar made a customary left wing run, picked out Fyfe who superbly crossed to the back post for Stephen Green only for Kakehi to be on hand to clear from danger.
Moments later, City almost found themselves ahead for the first time after a goalmouth scramble from a free kick with the Redlands defence ultimately scrambling away.
On the hour, Redlands peppered the City goal on three separate occasions with the home side firstly denied by the post then by Allen with two saves.
Referee Trent Sleeman was increasingly finding it more difficult to keep control of what was becoming a tense affair. It boiled over when both sets of players became involved in push-and-shove that saw multiple cautions issued.
After that was resolved, Bechar was allowed an unmarked run into the box from which he narrowly shot over the post.
It would be City who would score next though and again via a Sibatuara corner in the lead-up. Matt Biggins played across the face of goal and Bird slammed home from close range into the top of the net.
Both sides exchanged chances in the final minutes with nervous moments for City in the dying embers when Michael McGowan unable to get enough power to a header that fell straight to Allen.
The win moves City into third, two points behind second-placed Redlands with the two teams to meet again on Tuesday night in round six of the FFA Cup at CTM Stadium,
Redlands 1 (Alistair Davis 25’) v Brisbane City 2 (Motoki Kakehi 45’, Nathan Bird 73’)
Redlands: Matt Lugo, Grant Brix, Kai Halliday, Paul O’Brien, Stephen Green, Nico Bechar, Graham Fyfe (Doyle Bissett 85’), Adam Chandler, Nick Danicic (Greg Warden 63’), Michael McGowan, Alistair Davis (Russell Woodruffe 77’). Subs not used: Jono Burrowes, Sam Langley.
Brisbane City: Tim Allen, Greg King, Luke Pavlou (Mitch Hore 67’), Nathan Bird, Matt Biggins, Antonio Murray (Jason Park 76’), Scot Coulson (Simon Biel 83’), Nick Buckley, Kai Barnes, Sam Sibatuara, Motoki Kakehi. Subs not used: Scott Halliday, Jake Clancy.
Referee: Trent Sleeman