The Magic of the Cup: Semi Finals (Canberra Olympic)
Continuing my journey through the 2016 FFA Cup from the very beginning. I started off with my local side Backpackers FC and had followed them until they were knocked out by Curtin Uni, who fell to Stirling Lions. The Lions were eliminated by Cockburn City, who in turn were eliminated by the Melbourne Knights and then arch rivals Green Gully before landing with Canberra Olympic. I will now follow that side until they are defeated and will follow that side and so on and so forth.
Who knows where I’ll end up…
QUARTER FINAL-Canberra Olympic (ACTPL) 1 GREEN GULLY (NPL VIC) 0
SEMI FINAL – Tuesday October 19
CANBERRA OLYMPIC (ACT Premier League) v Sydney FC (A-League).
There have been some epic upsets in the FFA Cup in 2016 but then again it is a cup competition and tailored for it. In the last round I did expect Green Gully (my current team in this journey) to make short work of Olympic and be yet another Victorian state side to make the semi finals of the cup following Bentleigh Green and Hume City in previous years.
Once again though the favourites were turfed out with Olympic and their fervent public servant supporters surviving the onslaught of the Green Gully attack to sneak home thanks to a late late penalty. The dream continued for these part timers even if it was soured a little due to the fact that the draw is rigged to ensure a non A-League team would make the last four in a classic piece of FFA manufactured ‘magic’. If they want this competition to be truly like the cup competitions people love from Wembley to Dorrien Gardens then it should be a legit draw from the hat but still, the FFA Cup is a magnificent concept that bridges the gap between Lowy’s brave new world and the imperfect but traditional grass roots level.
In the semifinal there would be no easy game for anyone as Olympic were now drawn against the high flying Sydney FC. Sydney FC were part of the A-league and some more cynical people would say Frank Lowy’s personal team. Much like Victory some saw it as a chance to support a team for the whole city rather than some local enclave or ethnic group giving the true fan of sport of which there are plenty something to be part of on a grand scale.
While they won the first A-League title which was always seemingly a certainty and defeated Victory on penalties to win another title in 2010 their life in Australian Football’s top competition had never been smooth. There had been a number of coaches, 9 in 11 seasons in fact, and along with that a different collection of CEOs who went through a revolving door they hadn’t been the most stable of clubs. For all the posturing of the club as the ‘glamour’ side in the league their crowds had never been that of the Victory or even their younger brothers Western Sydney fueling the stereotype of the average Sydney sports fan loved a good bandwagon. There always seemed to be something missing with Sydney FC, that they had never shown the potential offered to them by the FFA ahead of others in the game’s biggest city.
Still, the side now seemed to be approaching some kind of steadiness rarely seen for them. Graham Arnold was now in to his third season as coach and after a poor second year (making the GF the first year) he now had an impressive squad with a rare depth seen for an A-League side under the salary cap. This side also played the Arnold way that was hard to break down, impressively stoic and brutally effective. Almost 6000 had crammed in to Viking Park for this match showing that perhaps a new A-League side does belong in the ACT and won’t be a complete disaster like the Cosmos were in the NSL. Watching at home, the usual stereotypes from the Fox Sports commentators were coming through. Being originally a club for the Greek locals the talks of souvlaki came up on a minute by minute basis not giving subtle reminders about the magic of the cup and these small clubs against the big guys but more beating us to death with this message.
The Olympic side featured the same heroes captained by the quite extraordinary goalkeeper Angelo Kostantinou with Adam Rogic (brother of Celtic and Socceroo maestro Tommy) suspended after his sending off against Green Gully in the quarter finals. Sydney FC didn’t chop and change that much despite being a midweek game between A-League fixtures playing a near full strength side. With normal local sponsors shifted for Westfield and Fox Sports advertising showing the corporate world had arrived for the latter stages of the competition the game began and was initially tight. Olympic played a high defensive line and tried to push Sydney FC back catching the giants off guard that initially worked. One half chance was taken in a spectacular way when Phillipe Bernabo-Madrid had a bicycle kick fly over the bar. The chance for the Olympic striker was almost as flamboyant as his hyphenated surname.
From here Sydney FC started to turn the screws and dominate. The new Sydney FC signing Bobo strung the offside trap on around 20 minutes but was denied by Kostanitnou in the first shot across the bow from the A-League leaders. Then from the resulting corner Sydney FC were ahead thanks to a training ground like finish. The corner was passed along the ground to the edge of the area where Grant curled in a cross to Seb Ryall who headed in from close range. That kind of trickery is perhaps not seen in the ACT leagues.
From here the high line of Olympic was being destroyed as their inability to mimic Arsenal’s famous back four didn’t eventuate Bobo beating the offside trap numerous times but again was stopped by Kostanitnou. Right on half time Sydney FC Alex Brosque (sporting a beard that made him look like a Diego Castro wannabe) chipped a stranded keeper and had the ball fall to him as he ran on but with an open goal begging managed to hit the crossbar from inches out. 1-0 half time.
With more patronizing commentary of fans being full of souvlaki and smashed plates Sydney tried to put the game to bed in the second half their structure, passing and strength dominating Olympic. Kostanitnou continued to show why he was one of more memorable players from the 2016 version of this competition saving a shot with his toes before he was helpless to save a wonderful free kick from Dimitrijevic that curled past a make shift wall and stretched the net. 2-0 after 64 minutes. While Olympic were being dominated to concede goals from set pieces must have rankled and their heads dropped for the final 30 of the match. Coming off the bench and now fully fit after a hellish run in Belgium with Club Brugge Bernie Ibini showed why he would be so important for Sydney FC in 2016/17 as a loanee when he finished at the far post on 82 minutes to officially put the game to bed.
3-0 the end result and now Sydney FC were my team and they were in a cup final so I should do the stereotypical Sydney thing and become a big fan until they lose and then disappear. Olympic were the last of the ‘little’ clubs to go and now it would be an all A-League affair in the final between Sydney and another FFA influenced team in Melbourne City. One more to go and it promises to be a cracking game between two of if not the best sides in the country.
CANBERRA OLYMPIC 0 GREEN GULLY 3 (Ryall 24, Dimitrijevic 65 Ibini 82)
CROWD – 5581. A wonderful crowd for the ground set amongst new flash apartments and businesses. Glad they didn’t switch it to Bruce Stadium where atmosphere goes to die.
ATMOSPHERE – Tight knit and fantastic (albeit through the TV and until Sydney FC scored first)
FACILITIES – N/A but of course the patronising commentary from Brendan Speed indicated the souvlaki was nice.
EATS/DRINKS FACILITIES – N/A
Sydney FC will play Melbourne City in the FFA CUP FINAL at AAMI Park on November 30.