FFA Cup Flashback: The first ever night of FFA Cup
Fightbacks, upsets, underdogs, red cards, and shoot-out heroics – Australian football fans were promised the ‘Magic of the Cup’ and the opening night of the FFA Cup delivered in spades.
With the first of the A-League clubs still a week away from their FFA Cup debuts, Tuesday, July 29, 2014 proved an historic showcase for National Premier Leagues and community clubs to shine as four cities played host to the first ever Round of 32 matches.
For former National Soccer League Championship winners Sydney Olympic, Melbourne Knights and Brisbane Strikers, the evening marked a return to the national spotlight after the best part of a decade away.
For state league high-flyers Olympic FC, South Cardiff Gunners and Broadmeadow Magic it was a chance to test their wares against interstate opponents for the very first time in a cutthroat cup setting.
And for fourth-tier club South Springvale, it was an opportunity to continue a fairytale run that had already taught several highly fancied Preliminary Round opponents that nothing is ever assured in the FFA Cup.
Broadmeadow Magic v Brisbane Strikers
Over 1,500 were on hand as the Magic and Strikers took to Newcastle’s Wanderers Oval in a see-sawing contest that became an instant classic.
On 58 minutes Scott Pettit delivered a well-worked opener the Magic, only to see it rubbed out minutes later by a rocketed half-volley from the Strikers’ Matt Thurtell.
Then what followed turned the drama up to eleven, as the Magic survived both a red card and a penalty to force the match into extra time.
But it was not to be for the plucky Novacastrians as the Strikers went ahead for the first time through Scot Coulson, before a second red card in the closing stages put paid to local fans’ hopes of a final plot twist.
Manly United v Sydney Olympic
In Sydney, the two NPL New South Wales clubs faced off at Cromer Park as their ever-growing league rivalry found a new setting in the FFA Cup.
The hosts made the perfect start as Chris Payne slotted a composed tenth minute opener, however the visitors stole the show in the second stanza as Olympic’s Gaitatszis brothers ran riot.
Michael Gaitatszis levelled the terms as the hour approached before Harris Gaitatszis put his side ahead for the first time – both goals built on the back of sharp passing through Manly’s lines.
But it was the younger Michael, a late inclusion to the starting side, that put the exclamation point on a famous win for Olympic when he tucked away his second of the night with a quarter hour remaining to see his side advance.
Olympic FC v Melbourne Knights
Goodwin Park in Brisbane welcomed the largest crowd of the opening night as over 2,000 supporters cheered on defending NPL Queensland Champions Olympic against strong favourites Melbourne Knights.
Olympic made the most of their home ground advantage – storming to a two-goal lead inside the opening half-hour as midfielder Jake McLean became the first player to net a brace in the Round of 32.
The Knights pulled a goal back through Jordan O’Doherty shortly after the restart, but he soon went from hero to villain as his second booking left the Knights a man down with 12 minutes remaining.
Young Olympic substitute Mustafa Jafari took full advantage of the numerical advantage to seal the win with just minutes remaining while a further Knights dismissal in injury time finally quelled the travelling fans’ fading hopes.
South Springvale v South Cardiff
Of course, it wouldn’t be a night of FFA Cup drama without a penalty shoot-out and the competition’s first Round of 32 shoot-out proved to be one of its most famous.
A back-and-forth opening stanza delivered plenty of chances and goals as Lee Ashton’s fourth minute opener for the Gunners was answered midway through the half by Springvale’s Alexandru Florea, only for Mitchell Wallace’s thumping strike restoring the visitor’s lead shortly before the half.
However, as the tension heightened entering the final quarter hour the hosts pegged their opponents back once more as Sotiros Dimitrakopoulos finished off a sweeping series of passes.
With extra time failing to deliver the decisive blow penalties loomed and the hosts held their nerve to convert all their attempts, before goalkeeper Rani Dowisha made a stunning save to deny the Gunners’ Jarryd Johnson with the final attempt of the night to progress to the Round of 16.