Lions FC 1 (Shepherd 20′)
Heidelberg Utd 1 (Ellis 71′)
If there’s one player you’d have as first choice for a penalty shootout, it’s Lions keeper Luke Borean who once again was the hero of the night as Lions FC reached the National NPL Final courtesy of a 3-1 penalty shootout win over NPL Victoria champions Heidelberg United.
A short turnaround of just three days saw Lions face one of their stiffest opponents this season in the FFA Cup Quarter Finalists Heidelberg, who due to their fixture commitments in the NPL Victoria were forced to relinquish hosting rights of this National NPL Semi-Final clash.
The visitors started the game brightly with Borean forced into a couple of saves in quick succession on ten minutes.
Coach Warren Moon was forced into an early change with a foot injury to midfielder Shaun Carlos as Chris Maher replaced him with just over a quarter of an hour played.
It didn’t have too much of an adverse affect though as three minutes later the hosts took the lead from a counter attack.
Mitch Hore superbly picking out the run of Nathan Shepherd who beat the Berger’s defence and calmly slotted the ball low past keeper Chris Theodonodis-Petropoulos from the edge of the box.
Midway through the half, Marek Madle went close to doubling the lead with a near post effort that Theodonodis-Petropoulos tipped around the post.
The start of the second half saw a further change in personnel for Lions with Liam Cosgrove coming on for Danny Kim as the rigours of recent weeks looked to be taking it’s toll.
Sean Ellis went close on 54 minutes to force Borean into a fine near post save.
The contest then took a twist when on the hour mark, Referee Martin Krenes showed a straight red to United’s Harry Noon following a melee involving Marek Madle and Heidelberg defender Steven Price that threatened to turn ugly. Noon unnecessarily getting involved but quite what his misdemeanour was is unclear.
It meant the hosts now had a man advantage for the remainder of the game but as is often the case, it was the side with ten men who would strike next.
With 20 minutes remaining, Lions failed to clear the ball and some solid work from Thomas Cahill near the goal line saw him lob the ball into the six yard box for Ellis to head home from close range.
Neither side could muster any further opportunities as extra time loomed.
Further injury concerns saw the end of substitute Maher’s evening shortly into the first period of extra time with youngster Tyson Walpole coming on to replace him and it was Walpole who found himself in a great position 10 minutes in when Andy Thompson threaded a ball though to him in the six yard box, but Walpole, perhaps unsure if he was offside, could only find the side netting from his resulting effort.
A moment later and it was United who went closest to taking the lead. Sean Ellis picking up a lobbed ball in behind the Lions defence to be through on goal but somehow Borean managed to do enough to put him off as the Scotsman’s effort went wide of the post when it looked for all money as though he’d score.
So after 120 minutes the contest would require the dreaded penalty shootout to decide things and without question, it would prove to be the Luke Borean show again in similar fashion to Lions recent NPL QLD semi-final shootout win over Moreton Bay United just three weeks ago.
With each side converting their opening spot kicks, it would be the hosts who would falter first.
Marek Madle seeing his effort brilliantly saved by Theodonodis-Petropoulos.
Next up for United was goal scorer Ellis and after some issue with the ball placement, he would see his rather tame effort saved by Borean.
Lions convert their next two kicks which included a spectacular effort from Borean to leave his opposite number watching on as the ball flashed into the top right corner to upset any spiders nestling in the far reaches of the net.
With Cahill smashing his spot kick onto the bar in between Lions spot kick conversions, it was left up to Reuben Way to keep his side in the game, but Borean guessed the right way and parried away his kick to send Lions through to the national final to face the winner of this weekend’s semi-final between Campbelltown City from South Australia and NSW side Sydney Olympic.
A welcome break will provide some much earned rest for Warren Moons troops as they prepare for the chance to take out an unprecedented treble as well as earn an automatic spot in the FFA Cup Round of 32 in 2019.
“We just don’t want the season to end, we just want to keep punishing ourselves, that’s what it is.”
“To be fair, Heidelberg were a class above who we’ve played up here in Queensland. I’m not going to say they’re the best footballing side but that doesn’t matter as anyone can play to whatever style they choose but what they do, they do well with the quality of players they have and they certainly caused us some problems tonight.”
“We got our lead and we certainly caused them problems but without really controlling the game. We found a way to keep in control on the scoreboard and keep the ball. Unfortunately we were forced to make changes and that kind of killed the way we play in a sense. The players that came on for us did a very good job for us but we lost that trust, that forward press. They created a chance and as good sides do, they punished us.”
“Once it went to penalties it was always going to be the Luke Borean show. I know he’s always going to save at least one and as long as we put ours away we’re always in with a chance to win it and again he proved that tonight.”
Borean (gk), Thompson, Simic, Jarrard, Hore, Brindell-South, Solorzano, Shepherd, Carlos, Kim, Madle.
Subs: Cuminao (rgk), Walpole, Maher, Glockner, Cosgrove.
Theodonodis-Petropoulos (gk), Wilkins, Way, Cartanos, Zahra, Petrie, Byles, Noon, Cahill, Pace, Ellis.
Subs: Read, O’Brien, Talevski, Ofli, Pavlidis (rgk).