Strikers earn shot at City after historic win
BRISBANE Strikers have become the first Queensland club to reach the FFA Cup semi-finals.
A Ryan Palmer double propelled the former National Soccer League champions to a 3-2 quarter-final win over plucky Victorian outfit Moreland Zebras at Perry Park.
Since the Cup's inception in 2014, no Queensland team had reached the final four - before Wednesday night.
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Palmer's brace was complemented by a Fraser Hills goal, with the pair combining regularly during the 90 minutes to torment the third-tier Zebras, who play their football in the NPL Victoria second division.
The Strikers, who finished in fifth spot on the NPL Queensland ladder, will host Melbourne City, 3-0 winners over Western Sydney, in one semi-final on Otcober 1 or 2. In the other semi, Central Coast Mariners will meet Adelaide United.
While the Strikers were deserving winners, the Zebras were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in the 11th minute when towering striker Nicolas Niagioran was dragged down from behind by defender Michael McGowan.
Despite the visitors having a good case for a spot kick, referee Chris Beath waved play on. It was a rare talking point in the first 20 minutes.
But the match sprang to life soon after, with former Strikers goalkeeper Fraser Chalmers making two saves in two minutes to keep the hosts at bay.
He firstly denied Chris Maher, and backed it up 60 seconds later to save an Andy Pengelly shot. Then it was the turn of Strikers keeper Bon Scott to shine, with the gloveman standing tall to prevent Niagioran giving Moreland the lead in the 25th minute.
Two minutes the Strikers went ahead through attacking weapon Hills.
Fed by midfielder Palmer, Hills slotted the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
Niagioran then wasted great chances to equalise in the 30th and 33rd minutes. And the Zebras were made to pay when the Strikers doubled the lead two minutes before halftime.
This time it was Hills providing the assist for Palmer, who calmly guided the ball past a helpless Chalmers.
Pengelly should have made it 3-0 five minutes into the second half after being set-up Palmer, but he couldn't get the better of Chalmers in a one-on-one situation.
The Zebras didn't drop their heads, and cut the Strikers lead in half in the 55th minute when Thomas Barforash held off defender Matthew Richardson before getting the better of Scott.
But within two minutes the Strikers had restored their two-goal advantage, with Palmer scoring his second goal of the night.
The Strikers then had numerous chances to kill off the game, but were foiled by Chalmers, the woodwork and their own wastefulness.
And it led to a nervous finish when Jakob Williams scored for Moreland in the 82nd minute.
But the Strikers held on to end the Zebras' gallant Cup run.
"We wanted to create history tonight, that was our goal, and the lads have done that so now we've got to try to dream again and see if we can make a final," Strikers coach Owen Baker said.