Rockdale take match to A-League champions

By Corinthian (Paul Green)

Westfield FFA Cup Round of 16, 2015
Jubilee Oval, Kogarah, Tuesday 1st September 2015, 7.30 pm

Rockdale City Suns 2 (Marko Jesic pen 55, Leigh Broxham o.g. 86) lost to Melbourne Victory 3 (Jesse Makarounas 45, 65, Besart Berisha 50)

Over a thousand enthusiastic Rockdale City Suns fans descended on Kogarah’s Jubilee Oval on Tuesday night, along with about three times as many neutrals and a smattering of Melbourne Victory fans, to see what magic the FFA Cup could deliver in a Round-of-16 clash that brought together a mid-table NSW NPL1 side and the A League 2014-15 Premiers and Championship winners.

Rockdale supporters elected, for the most part, to eschew the comfort of the expansive grandstand, where most people were gathered, in favour of a spot behind one goal, probably so that they could be untroubled by less-committed supporters when they set off their flares, while waving their huge red and black flag and several smaller ones.

Even before referee Katie Patterson, in her first match in control of an A League side, blew her whistle to start the game, the first flare went off.

That was only a reprise of what had happened at Rockdale’s own, more modest, home ground before the Round of 32 match against Perth FC three weeks’ earlier, from a similar vantage point.

Just as then, the flares were lit and the security personnel moved in; but since the fans were congregated well away from most of the casual spectators in the substantially sterile stands, the smoke soon dissipated and everyone remained focused on the game.

And what a game it was, considering the difference in talent at the disposal of the two clubs, with Victory looking confident, if not complacent, in their approach to the game.

Rockdale have always been known as a footballing team, rather than a physical, long-ball kind of outfit, something their passionate fans really appreciate. So it was no surprise to see their players spraying the ball around and attacking with relish.

With player-coach Paul Reid occupying the spot in front of the back-four and doing his best to imitate the attributes of a true libero, Rockdale (or Ilinden, as most of their fans like to call them) seemed more than a match for the Melbourne A League side, although they did survive the anguish that one disallowed offside goal midway through the first-half might have caused.

The Sydney side had their chances and seemed content to go to the sheds scoreless, with Victory, at least on the surface, happy to wait until the second-half to make their initial breakthrough.

But Rockdale may unfortunately have switched off prematurely, as Victory pushed extra hard over the concluding minutes and did indeed break the first-half ice.

Pressure on the right of the penalty area led to some tight challenges out wide and then the ball was played across to Jesse Makarounas, who slammed the ball home from ten metres.

The visitors then extended their lead just five minutes into the second period, suggesting that Rockdale could be in for something of a hammering, now that their visitors had signalled their supremacy.

This time it was Victory’s “enfant terrible”, Besart Berisha, who’d had the earlier goal disallowed and who’d also gone close two minutes earlier, again from a Fahid Ben Khalfallah assist.

The goal was a simply-taken one or at least made to look simple thanks to the superb ball lofted goal-wards by FBK and by the deft way that Berisha nodded it home — so things were beginning to look ominous for the NSW Premier League outfit.

But Rockdale were made of sterner stuff and were not to be intimidated.

They elected to show their attacking wares and soon enough they were able to pull one goal back, albeit from the penalty spot.

Their most effective striker, Marko Jesic, did the honours after a blatant handball by Victory defender, Thomas Deng, in the 55th minute.

The Melbourne side, however, maybe saw that as a mere token offering and eventually regained their two-goal cushion in the 65th.

Again it was Makarounas who shone, delightfully lifting the ball over the head of the stranded Suns keeper, Ivan Necevski, who’d initially remained on his line when danger threatened on the right, but had no choice other than leaving it after Fahid Ben Khalfallah played the ball square to his tall teammate, who then had only the keeper ahead of him.

At 3-1 once again, Victory could have been expected to go on and finish their opponents off with a few more goals, but so much did Rockdale have to offer that well before full time some of the visiting players were toying with corners and trying to hold the ball there to restrict access to it by their less-fancied opponents, even when attacking opportunities seemed relatively abundant.

And so the lack of respect nearly cost them.

Four minutes from time, well before an A-League team should have been wasting time against a NSW NPL1 opponent, Rockdale found a second goal.

After a corner from the left by star winger Toufic Alameddine, all the heads went up and as the Victory defence frantically tried to keep the ball out, Broxham could only slice the ball into his own net, setting up a grandstand finish.

Some fans had already made their way towards the exit gates behind the goal where the last goal had been scored and where the Rockdale fans were standing.

The crowd elected to remain and cheered the team all the way to the finish, into four minutes of stoppage-time, during which Victory went close to giving away a second penalty and were forced to defend three well-taken corners.

Fortunately for them, referee Patterson had insufficient evidence of foul play to send the game into extra-time, via a third Rockdale goal from the spot.

Roared on by a Sydney crowd, who’d adopted Rockdale for the evening, the game came to its enthralling conclusion, once again highlighting the huge potential of the FFA Cup.

The atmosphere was described by many in attendance as “electric” and “superb”, not always how you tend to hear it referred to at all that many A-League games.

The magic of the Cup was again to thank for that ringing endorsement.

Match stats:

Rockdale City Suns:
22. Ivan Necevski (gk), 3. Steven Hesketh, 4. Hristijan Tanoski (20. Mitsuhiro Iwamoto 75’), 5. Paul Reid (c) (18. David Dascal 85’), 6. Takuya Murayama (7. Alec Urosevski 66’), 9. Dylan Macallister, 10. Marko Jesic, 12. Idriss El Hafiane, 15. Nicholas Petrillo, 17. Toufic Alameddine, 19. Patrick Savor
Substitutes Not Used: 1. David Bradasevic, 29. Isaac Savor
Yellow Cards: Paul Reid 74’
Red Cards: Nil
Player-Coach: Paul Reid

Melbourne Victory:
1. Danny Vukovic (gk); 5. Daniel Georgievski, 6. Leigh Broxham, 8. Besart Berisha, 10. Archie Thompson (19. George Howard 85’), 14. Fahid Ben Khalfallah (28. Joseph Katebian 85’), 17. Matthieu Delpierre, 18. Dylan Murnane, 21. Carl Valeri (c), 22. Jesse Makarounas, 24. Thomas Deng (16. Rashid Mahazi 75’)
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Lawrence Thomas, 23. Keiran Dover

Yellow Cards: Jesse Makarounas 56, Carl Valeri 59
Red Cards: Nil
Coach: Kevin Muscat

Referee: Katie Patterson
Assistants: Lance Greenshields and James Tesoriero
Additional Assistants: Stephen Lucas and Ben Abraham
Fourth Official: Kearney Robinson

Match: 8/10

Pitch: 9/10

Weather: Cool, light breeze

Official attendance: 4,165

Players noted: Marko Jesic (RSC), Toufic Alameddine (RSC), Idriss Hafiane (RCS), Fahid Ben Khalfallah (MV), Jesse Makarounas (MV), Daniel Georgievski (MV)

By Corinthian (Paul Green)