A full house packed into Kingston Heath Soccer Complex on Tuesday night hoping to see Bentleigh Greens complete a fairytale run to the inaugural Westfield FFA Cup final, but Perth Glory obviously hadn't read the script, as the Hyundai A-League leaders ran out relatively comfortable 3-0 winners.
John Anastasiadis' PS4 NPL Victoria side kept their shape and worked hard to shut down the heavyweight visitors but were undone by Nebojsa Marinkovic mid-way through the first half, fast becoming Australian football's free-kick specialist after two stunning dead-ball strikes in the space of three days.
The Serbian effectively ended the match as a contest when he doubled the away team's lead 10 minutes into the second half, with Chris Harold adding a third late on, setting up a final against either Adelaide United or Central Coast Mariners.
The dream is over for the Greens, but they will boast new fans and have a spring in their step when they return to action next season.
What They Said
"It's very nice to be first in the league and we go to the final of the FFA Cup. It's not an easy game because before today we play only 48-hours after the league game but I think we deserved to win.
"I don't like to speak about myself but I tell you, I have this (talent) since I was small. I practise now more than before. I've always scored many goals from freekicks."
"I enjoyed it, the crowd were amazing and right behind us.
"Unfortunately we didn't get the result at the end of the day which is very disappointing considering how far we've come through the season and how long we've been training."
0-1 (Nebojsa Marinkovic 28')
Greens captain Wayne Wallace, one of the heroes of the extra-time win over Adelaide City in the quarter-finals, brought Richard Garcia down on the edge of the area and Marinkovic did the rest, firing home an inch-perfect free-kick into the top left corner and past Alastair Bray off the underside of the crossbar.
0-2 (Marinkovic 50')
Andy Keogh advanced down the left and into the box, pulling the ball back to Marinkovic, who beat Jack Webster with his first touch and bent a cool finish to the far post, leaving Bray with no chance.
0-3 (Harold 84')
Some neat combination play inside the area between Marinkovic and substitute Josh Risdon resulted in a pass to fellow sub Harold, who had the easiest of finishes with the hosts' defence going absent.
Luke Gallo missed the Greens' best chance of the first half, pulling a shot wide of goal after a cutback picked him out unmarked inside the penalty area. Three minutes later, the hosts were behind.
Luke Pilkington could have raised the roof on 64 minutes when he sent a dipping shot from all of 35 metres out inches over the bar with Danny Vukovic beaten.
Back to the drawing board
At that point still only 2-0 down, Bentleigh went close from long range two other times in the final 30 minutes, Luke O'Dea and Wallace both worrying Vukovic to no avail. We'll never know what could have happened if the underdogs had pulled one back.
The Final Word
While Kenny Lowe's side will now be determined to translate their strong early season form into victory in the inaugural Westfield FFA Cup, the Greens should be justifiably proud of writing an early chapter in the short history of the fledgling competition with their memorable run to the last four.