No one could have imagined just how big the FFA Cup was going to be when the competition kicked off in 2014.
But as soon as things got started on the opening night, it didn’t take long to realise the Australia-wide knockout competition would grip the nation.
And the opening year of the FFA Cup belonged to Adelaide United, with the Reds finally brushing off the bridesmaid tag to end a long trophy drought.
Ahead of this year’s final between Adelaide United and Sydney FC, we reflect on the Reds’ triumph in the very first FFA Cup decider in 2014.
The road to the Final
There’s no doubt Adelaide United earned their spot in the inaugural FFA Cup decider.
Josep Gombau’s troops came up against Hyundai A-League opposition in every round to ultimately lift the trophy.
And fleet-footed Spanish winger Sergio Cirio would prove to be the key man on their incredible Cup journey, scoring in every round.
Cirio got things rolling by netting the only goal as the Reds got past Wellington Phoenix 1-0 in the Round of 32 before he and Bruce Djite both found the back of the net in the 2-0 win over Brisbane Roar in the last 16.
A tricky away quarter-final against Sydney FC was next up, with Cirio scoring again as the sides were level at 1-1 at full-time.
A Djite brace in extra-time kept Adelaide’s Cup hopes alive, setting up a Semi Final showdown with Central Coast Mariners.
It turned out to be a Cup classic, with Cirio’s double seeing the Reds emerge 3-2 winners to book their spot in the decider against Perth Glory.
Red-letter night for Adelaide
There was a special atmosphere in the city ahead of kick-off, with more than 16,000 expectant fans cramming into Coopers Stadium hoping to see the club end their eight-year wait for a trophy.
The Hyundai A-League Premiers’ Plate – won back in the 2005/06 Season – was all the Reds had in the trophy cabinet and this was their chance to add to it.
And the players did not disappoint.
After a tight and tense first-half – which the Reds dominated without making the most of their chances – the match sprung to life after the break.
Glory defender Josh Risdon saw red for a second bookable offence just before the hour mark, before Cirio delivered yet again in this competition, 23 minutes from time.
The special Spaniard showed a great turn of speed to burst into the area before finishing from an incredibly tight angle past Glory keeper Danny Vukovic.
Despite wasting a couple more opportunities late on, the Reds held on for the win to spark unforgettable scenes at full-time, both on the pitch and in the stands.
Match-winner Cirio also took out the Mark Viduka Medal as the player of the Final.
“We are so happy. All the group and all the people that are working in the club – for us it is important to win something,” Gombau said afterwards.
“I think that we deserved it because in the Cup we played against four Hyundai A-League sides and we won every single game and now is the moment for us to enjoy.”
Catalyst for more success
The FFA Cup triumph proved to be a decisive moment for Adelaide United and kick-started a period of success for the club.
They went on to finish that Hyundai A-League season in third spot, falling one game short of making the Grand Final.
Gombau’s shock resignation before the start of the next season saw former Barcelona and Spain star Gui Amor take over heading into the 2015/16 Season.
While it was a slow start to the campaign – the Reds did not win any of their first eight games – Amor’s style and influence soon came to the fore.
Adelaide lost just one more match all season, including a 14-game unbeaten run, on the way to winning the Premiers’ Plate thanks to a final round 2-0 win over Melbourne City.
They then completed an astonishing rise from last to first by winning the Hyundai A-League Grand Final 3-1 over Western Sydney Wanderers in front of more than 50,000 fans at Adelaide Oval.
There’s also been success on an individual level, with three members of that FFA Cup Final winning team – Awer Mabil, Dylan McGowan and Tarek Elrich – all going on to make their Caltex Socceroos debuts after that triumph.