So close yet so far: the FFA Cup upsets that never were
The FFA Cup 2018 has served up some incredible giant-killing tales in its short history.
APIA Leichhardt’s famous win over Melbourne Victory this year and Blacktown City’s memorable win over Central Coast Mariners in 2017 are just two standouts from a long list of upsets.
But what about the nearly moments? After Avondale’s close call against Sydney FC on Wednesday night, we’ve dug through the archives to remember the best FFA Cup upsets that never were.
Avondale 2-4 Sydney FC (2018)
Avondale looked down and out in their Quarter Final tie against Sydney.
Trent Buhagiar’s first half double handed the Sky Blues a commanding half time lead, while the Avengers appeared a team exhausted following NPL Victoria semi-final exertions.
But having pulled off a minor miracle to beat Heidelberg United in last Friday’s NPL Victoria semi-final, Avondale came within a whisker of repeating a feat of similar magnitude.
It started when Liam Boland pegged a goal back with a whipped low shot that went in off the post early in the second half, before the Avondale striker bagged a quickfire double after Andrew Redmayne and the Sydney defence failed to clear a corner.
Anthony Barbieri’s side almost stole it at the death – only for Redmayne to deny second half substitute Yitay Towns with a sensational diving save in the final minutes of regulation time.
But in the end, it just wasn’t meant to be for Avondale, as Milos Ninkovic and Adam Le Fondre put the comeback kings to rest with extra time goals.
Hellenic AC 3-4 Western Sydney Wanderers (2018)
It was so nearly biggest FFA Cup upset of all time.
Western Sydney Wanderers were expected to cruise past Northern Territory minnows Hellenic in this year’s Round of 32 encounter.
And when a Daniel Smith own goal was followed by Oriol Riera’s penalty early on, Hellenic’s mountain to climb grew out of sight.
But the Northern Territory part-timers had other ideas. Smith atoned for his earlier mistake with a goal before half time, before Sulav Maskey took centre stage.
The classy no.10 twice chipped Wanderers goalkeeper Danijel Nizic in a frenzied second half, but the Wanderers would ultimately prevail in the end as another goal from Riera and an injury time rescue act from Roly Bonevacia saw the Red and Black through to the Round of 16.
Rockdale City Suns 2-3 Melbourne Victory (2015)
Melbourne Victory were deserved FFA Cup winners in 2015, but their path to the Final was less than straightforward.
Nowhere else was this more evident than in the club’s Round of 16 affair against NPL New South Wales side Rockdale City Suns.
Rockdale fielded a line-up containing a quartet of former Hyundai A-League players for Victory’s visit, and the likes of Dylan Macallister, Marko Jesic, Paul Reid and Ivan Necevski all played their part in an opening half that had Kevin Muscat’s side reeling.
But a goal right on the stroke of half time from Jesse Makarounas and Besart Berisha’s effort early in the second half settled nerves for Melbourne.
Jesic slotted away a penalty in response and Makarounas hit his second to give Kevin Muscat’s side breathing space, but a late Leigh Broxham own goal ensured the nerviest of finishes for Victory. In hindsight, this mighty test of resolve might just have sparked their eventual cup triumph.
Blacktown 2-2 Wanderers (Wanderers won 4-2 on penalties, 2017)
Blacktown City had already beaten Central Coast Mariners when Western Sydney Wanderers arrived at Lily’s Football Centre in 2017.
And the NPL New South Wales outfit came so close to claiming another Hyundai A-League scalp and memorable upset victory against their local rivals.
It was a dream that was jeopardised from the second minute, when Oriol Riera dispatched a second-minute penalty.
But the introduction of City speed demon James Andrew flipped the match on its head.
Andrew first equalised midway through the second half in a classic counter attacking strike, before arriving late at the back post in extra time to hand Mark Crittenden’s side a remarkable lead.
Unfortunately for the Seven Hills-based side, Riera restored parity with a crashing header from underneath the post to force penalties, where the Spaniard would ultimately fire away the match-sealing kick from 12 yards.
Queensland Lions 0-1 Perth Glory (2015)
Queensland Lions were only five extra-time minutes away from one of the FFA Cup’s biggest early boil-overs when they hosted Perth Glory at Perry Park three years ago.
For the Lions, memories of the occasion will undoubtedly still be bittersweet. The current NPL Queensland champions could smell an opportunity when Glory keeper Jerrad Tyson was sent off in the opening stages, only for Andre Bonotto’s spot kick to be saved by substitute keeper Nicholas Feely.
10-man Glory managed to hold on, and just when it looked like the match was headed to penalties, Chris Harold broke Lions’ hearts when he slammed home a rebound after a great run by Gygory Sandor.
Perth would go on to reach the Final, but were ultimately bested 2-0 by Melbourne Victory.