MetroStars haunt Demons in FFA Cup
By Corinthian (Paul Green):
FFA Cup – Round of 32 – Day 1 games – BOTN Feature
7:30pm, Wednesday 29th July 2015 -Lily’s Football Centre, Seven Hills (aka Gabbie Stadium)
Blacktown City FC 1 (Patrick Antelmi 35′)
MetroStars SC 2 (Jonathan Negus 60′, Rocky Callisto 76′)
After all the excitement of the NSW Waratah Cup Final it was down to serious national business on Wednesday night for Blacktown City ‘Demons’ who met fellow NPL rivals – albeit from South Australia – the FFSA representatives, MetroStars (all one word, by the way), from the North Eastern suburbs of Klemzig, in Adelaide, in this opening round of the national stage of the Westfield FFA Cup competition.
Klemzig, in Port Adelaide, was the first settlement of German emigrants to Australia in the 19th century.
Currently seventh in the South Australian Premier League and defeated on Saturday night by last-placed Para Hills Knights, it might have suggested that their focus was mostly on this coming FFA Cup game when they played the Knights.
Blacktown City, by contrast, as leaders and defending Premiers of the NPL1 competition in NSW, clear favourites now to stave off the challenge of their closest rivals for yet another season, looked odds-on to beat the inter-state travellers.
Although they, too, had been given a hard game on the weekend, the outcome of which didn’t disturb their title prospects too much, however, with their 1-0 win just getting them over the line.
Here they fielded a strong side and looked well in control in a first-half played in relatively mild conditions for a late July evening and while carrying only a 1-0 lead into the second-half, the hosts had appeared to comfortably outclass their opponents, who seemed lacking in cohesion and precision, as well as being expected by many spectators to tire as the game wore on.
None of that happened, however, as MetroStars put on a far more confident performance after the break and took full toll of Blacktown’s first-half profligacy by emerging 2-1 winners. And while both their goals may have been down to poor defending by the Western Sydney NPL1 side, who still seemed comfortable with their narrow lead, gained in the 76th minute, thinking it could even be enough to see the game out and claim victory, gaining them a passage into the last 16. But clearly it wasn’t.
“They’re eleven warriors,” declared popular MetroStars’ coach, Michael Pirone, of his players, who know how much of a club-man their tactician is at the tightly-knit Adelaide outfit.
“We didn’t play so well on the weekend, but we didn’t field a weakened team, or anything. I’m struggling to put eleven player on the field most of the time,” he went on.
“I think we were very lucky to be only one goal down at half-time and then as we became more accustomed to the artificial pitch we began to get into the game a little more.
“They allowed us to come at them and we made the most of our opportunities.
“The boys were laughing afterwards about Rocky Callisto having scored the winner, as he hasn’t scored in three years.
“We have a history of doing well in national competition and we don’t mind playing away at all.
“Our club is only small and we’re only 20 years old. I’ve been here before a few times over the years and this place is far better set-up than anything we have back at our place, even before all of the recent improvements were made,” he recalled.
Coach Pirone was on the books of Adelaide City in their NSL days, at one stage and was also a Young Socceroo, travelling to numerous countries, notably in South America, alongside players like Brett Emerton, Vince Grella and Harry Kewell.
But after playing for other clubs in Adelaide, including the Knights, he joined MetroStars as a player in 2007 and is now their youthful coach, a position he took on only late last year, after initially guiding their reserve team.
Of course nobody should have underestimated the MetroStars, as their fellow-FFSA rivals, Adelaide City, knocked out Western Sydney Wanderers last season in this competition and MetroStars also emerged victorious in the NPL National Championships.
It was by virtue of that outcome that they were handed a spot in the Round of 32, as only two places are reserved for South Australian teams in the FFA Cup, Croydon Kings, as local Cup champions taking one and Hyundai A League side, Adelaide United, who are the defending FFA Cup holders, as it happens, taking the other.
The goals the MetroStars scored here were both crisp finishes, but Blacktown City coach, Mark Crittenden, described them as ‘soft’
“We conceded two soft goals tonight after playing all over them in the first-half. It definitely wasn’t complacency, from us” he argued.
“We should have been too far in front for them to catch us by half-time, but we didn’t put the chances away.
“I’m gutted, absolutely gutted,” he said. “And the players are gutted too.
“The hardest thing for me now is to get the players ‘up’ for the weekend (NPL1) match against (Sydney) Olympic.
MetroStars also were awarded a penalty early in stoppage-time, officially three minutes that almost stretched to four.
“I have no idea what the penalty was for,” he mused. “If you find out, let me know!”
The caution issued to Blacktown City keeper, Nenad Vekic, was officially given for ‘holding’ as the big man tried to intercept a MetroStars’ player from latching onto a through pass, close to the keeper’s left-hand post.
The ball went out and the player appeared to follow it over the line, so a penalty came as a surprise to many in the crowd.
But the awarding of the spot-kick, which could have yielded the visitors a third goal and made the remaining minutes academic, was missed badly by Scott Tunbridge, who skied the ball well over the crossbar anyway.
What it did do, however, was rob Blacktown of a precious minute of further attacking time, over the concluding stages.
“We camped in their half for the last 15 minutes,” Crittenden observed, “but even with so many good chances we couldn’t score and they (MetroStars) somehow survived.
A chronicle of missed chances for Blacktown over the concluding 15 minutes would make painful reading for the players and most of the crowd of 875, presuming the majority of them were locals.
A few travelling MetroStars’ fans may have been present, but if so they didn’t gather outside after the game to celebrate the win, from what we could see, at least.
Headers from Zac Cairncross and other attempts by Sasa Macura, Danny Choi, Travis Major and Mitch Mallia, were all frustrated by the intervention of a desperate last-ditch defending from the visitors.
The last chance to salvage the game and force it into extra-time came when substitute, Jonathan Grozdanovski, got through on the right, only to lift his close-range shot high over the bar, seconds before referee, David Bruce, blew for full-time.
The first-half had been all Blacktown City and MetroStars did not appear to be in the same class at all, struggling to keep up and definitely unable to create anything of substance; passes weren’t being strung together and most moves broke down very quickly.
Blacktown had Danny Choi making numerous runs down the left, while Mitch Mallia was always in the thick of things out wide on the right.
Occasionally the two swapped positions, with similar prospects of creating openings.
But the shots that ensued from their lead-up work were mostly dragged wide, or over the bar and despite a steady stream of potent crosses from both flanks, only one goal resulted, in the 35th minute.
Travis Major released Mallia on the right and when the low cross arrived in the six-yard box Patrick Antelmi lashed it into the net.
At that time of the game it looked as if the Torrens River banks had broken and MetroStars would be inundated, but MetroStars’ keeper, Daniel Godley, saved well from Antelmi close to half-time, having denied the same player with a similar save in the 16th, before he’d scored his lone goal and after a sustained run from deep, Blacktown midfielder, Connor Evans, saw his 25th minute effort shaving the right-hand upright..
Clearly this just wasn’t Blacktown’s night.
The magic of the Cup was about to unfold.
Further Blacktown missed chances early in the second period were interspersed with promising raids from the visitors and from a fine, curling cross from the left in the 60th by captain, Adam Van Dommele, the ball arrived awkwardly for the defenders and the Blacktown keeper, but sat up perfectly for Jonathan Negus, whose firm, well-placed header found the net at the far-post.
MetroStars could have gone two up a couple of minutes later when Vekic was forced to save from Liam Wooding, but the latter sent the loose ball from the rebound well over the bar.
Then came what proved to be the winner for the Adelaide visitors, in the 76th.
Fabian Barbiero, solid for the South Australian Premiers throughout, found some room on the left and whipped over a cross that Callisto somehow bundled over the line.
“I think it came off his knee,” Blacktown coach, Mark Crittenden, said later.
But they all count and nobody from MetroStars, least of all coach Pirone or scorer Callisto, will care how the ball found its way into the back of the net.
Crowd: Official attendance 875
Blacktown City FC ‘Demons’: GK 1 Nenad Vekic; 4 Yianni Fragogiannis, 19 Zac Cairncross (C), 6 Matt Lewis, 3 Georgio Speranza ( Jonathan Grozdanovski 76); 20 Connor Evans (12 Daniel Araujo 79); 8 Sasa Macura, (10 Christos Tomaras 76); 14 Mitch Mallia, 16 Patrick Antelmi, 11 Danny Seung-Joo Choi; 7 Travis Major
Subs not used: RGK 13 Tristan Prendergast, 21 Yianni Perkatis
Coach: Mark Crittenden
Yellow cards: Sasa Macura 64, Georgio Speranza 67, Nenad Vekic 90+2; Red Cards: Nil
MetroStars SC: GK 20 Daniel Godley; 19 Joseph Polisena, 7 Michael D’Aloisio, 6 Anthony Solagna, 21 Adam Van Dommele (C); 15 Liam Wooding, 9 Steven Grelli, 18 Fabian Barbiero, 8 Rocky Callisto; 11 Scott Tunbridge, 17 Jonathan Negus (14 Stefan Simic 90+4)
Subs not used: RGK 1 Callum Piantidosi, 3 Alexander Jakob, 23 Matthew Crooks, 12 Andrew Dyer
Coach: Michael Pirone
Yellow cards: Nil; Red Cards: Nil
Referee: David Bruce
Assistants: Leigh Pigram and Kearney Robinson
Fourth Official: Katie Patterson
Ratings and miscellaneous
Pitch: 10/10 (Synthetic)
Weather: Cool evening, little breeze
Players noted: Danny Choi (BC), Mitch Mallia (BC), Connor Evans (BC), Fabian Barbiero (MS), Michael D’Aloisio (MS), Scott Tunbridge (MS)