By MARK ROBINSON
IF Queensland Roar coach Miron Bleiberg was using the Southern Cross Credit Union Challenge against the Soccer FNC All Stars to settle his choice of striker, he looks to have found the answer in Argentinian Martin Perezlindo.
The former Argentina Under-20 representative scored a hat-trick of clever goals in the Roar's 4-0 win over a gallant but outclassed All Stars at Oakes Oval yesterday.
It took just 10 minutes before Perezlindo stamped his influence on the game, finding enough space in a crowded box to meet a curling corner with an accurate header that nestled in the corner of the net.
While the polish and precision of the new A-League club left the All Stars chasing the ball for most of the match, the locals were not overwhelmed by the occasion and created several half chances of their own, as strikers Peter O'Neill and Matthew Olley showed a willingness to take on their more experienced opponents.
Using a flat back three in defence allowed the All Stars to minimise the Roar's chances, but Perezlindo was still able to double the Roars lead by half-time with a second goal, warding off pressure to slot in a close range finish after 31 minutes.
His hat-trick was completed soon after the break when Perezlindo used his pace to latch onto a through-ball that caught the defence flat, clinically slotting a curling finish past 'keeper Rhys Evans.
Korean Tae Yohg Seo capped a strong game with the Roar's fourth goal, smashing in a loose ball from a ridiculously acute angle, unluckily after a good save from Evans.
While the Roar's international squad of professionals were undoubtedly superior, the local amateurs were never intimidated and rose to the occasion with a courageous performance.
Goalkeeper Rhys Evans and central defender Aaron Richter Steers came under plenty of pressure but handled it well, while Anthony Alvos, Kevin Crofton and Wayne Mortimer were tireless in their efforts.
Former Lismore player Todd Gava looked completely at ease in the Roar's defence and his progress in the forthcoming A-League will be eagerly followed locally.
The curtain-raiser between the Roar's second-string side and the SFNC President's XI resulted in a 5-0 win for the Roar, with giant Kiwi striker Neil Jones netting a hat-trick.
The North Coast Academy of Sports girls Under 17s had a 1-1 draw against New England in the opening game, with Renee McIntosh scoring for the Academy.
Soccer FNC senior results
First Division: Lennox Head 2 def Bangalow 1, Alstonville 6 def Nimbin Headers 2.
Second division: Goonellabah 10 def Kingscliff 1, Casino 4 def Italo Stars 0.
Third Division: Thistles 1 drew Goonellabah 1.
Fourth Division: Goonellabah 2 def Casino 1.
Over 35: Goonellabah 2 def Casino 1.