Arncliffe Aurora FC were a few penalty kicks away from causing one of the great ‘Cupsets’ in the short history of the Westfield FFA Cup.
The St George Football Association team took on PS4 NPL NSW Men’s 1 powerhouse side Rockdale City Suns in a local derby in the 5th round of the NSW Preliminary Rounds.
Making the short trip down West Botany Road to a packed house at the Illinden Sports Centre, it was a night the Aurora players would never forget.
Aurora’s coach Mahmoud Farhat said it was a fairytale Cup run that started with an incredible victory over Men’s State League 1 high flyers Gladesville Ryde Magic in Round 3 before a commanding 5-0 win over fellow Association team Hurstville Glory, setting up their dream clash with the Rockdale City Suns.
“We were very excited to get through the first two games and then knowing we were going to play Rockdale City Suns, a big and great club, it was arguably the biggest game in Arncliffe Aurora history.”
Readying yourself for a match like this isn’t easy but Farhat worked hard with his team.
“Preparations went well with numerous meetings taking place assessing player roles and what to expect.
“The boys were pretty excited and ready for a big game, not knowing what was in store for them.”
Cheered on by a boisterous travelling crowd, Aurora fought with all they had against their more fancied opponents.
Captain Mahmoud Chahine reflected on the feeling he and his players felt.
“It’s a feeling that me and my fellow team mates will never forget, knowing your friends and family are watching spurs you on that bit more. I’ve got to admit our crowd made it a special night for all.”
Coach Farhat believed his team could cause an upset and send shockwaves through the country with a victory.
“It was about performance and us turning up. Knowing Rockdale wasn’t in the best of form, we believed we had a sniff if we were able to get an early goal.
“It’s a cup tie and anything was possible, so we found out.”
Marcelo Abal in the Aurora goal put up a transcending performance, making save after save to keep the Suns at bay.
In the final minute of extra time it seemed it was all over for the team in yellow and blue and that Aurora’s superman would be beaten with an open goal beckoning for Nikola Taneski.
The heroics of Abal continued as he pulled off an astonishing save from point blank to send the match into penalties.
Farhat was more than impressed with his man between the sticks, commending the performance of the shot stopper.
“He was on fire; nothing was going to get passed him on that night. It was the best performance from a keeper that I’ve ever seen.”
Penalties didn’t go the way of Aurora as their large base of fans watched Suns keeper Tomsilav Arcaba save two spot-kicks that were enough for Rockdale to progress.
“Mixed emotions from the boys; being so close to a win against a great side but still a great effort in getting to the penalty shoot-out,” a proud Farhat said.
The Aurora mentor was delighted with what the Westfield FFA Cup offered grassroots clubs like his, giving them an opportunity to show what they can do as well as bringing all competitions together.“It’s a great competition, it gives lower league teams the opportunity to play and showcase their skills against bigger clubs and for us this has to be one of our greatest achievements that may never be repeated.”