Concluding 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. Finally I’m now with an A-League side at the very end after Sydney FC took out Olympic in the semifinals.
QUARTER FINAL-Canberra Olympic (ACTPL) 1 GREEN GULLY (NPL VIC) 0
SEMI FINAL-CANBERRA OLYMPIC (ACTPL) 0 Sydney FC (A-League) 3
THE FINAL– Wednesday November 30
Melbourne City (A-League) v SYDNEY FC (A-League)
After 702 matches, countless upsets and games from Darwin to the River Derwent the FFA Cup again had come down to the final and two A-League teams. With all the talk of an Australia Day Final and all the built up hype for a final that is supposed to be a showpiece event for the FFA the final was again shoved on to a day where they could find a spare stadium and find some time in the Fox Sports schedule putting it on a Wednesday Night in Melbourne.
With me being aligned to Sydney FC now, the opponents for Smiling Graham Arnold and his top notch side would be Melbourne City (nee Heart). Formed in 2009 the side was used to try and cash in on the mega-success of Victory hoping there were others who hadn’t picked a side yet and could create a bit of a rivalry through derbies and the like. South Melbourne would have perhaps been a more logical choice but the FFA were still wary of anything linked to the old days. While Heart played some silky football they never really caught on making the finals once with crowds not quite NSL but not much bigger. Kewell came and went, as did John Aloisi as a coach appointed for his name for than anything else as the side lurched along as a minor annoyance to Victory rather than an arch rival like Sydney FC and Adelaide United were.
The City Group then came in purchased the club renaming them Melbourne City and making them another one of the worldwide franchises feeding the mothership in Manchester. Money was splashed and some decent players came down to Victoria. The flying Irish winger Damien Duff came down and was the consummate professional while David Silva was quite the opposite. The star striker and World Cup winner had a face like a smacked arse the whole time he was here and was off to the New York franchise the first chance he got. A big signing soon turning in to a big flop.
City have perhaps bent the rules to get in some players with clearly the best squad in the A-League currently. They and the FFA matched the ‘vi$ion’ of Tim Cahill signing the star Socceroo while Bruno Fornaroli has been a joy to watch with his goals and fiery Latin temperament making his selection as captain a touch questionable. The side has some serious talent and produces some more serious questions about their salary cap. Even with all the talent the money and what for their crowds are still not that great, respect from other fans not forthcoming as much as they would hope.
City had made their way to the final with a win over crosstown rivals Victory in the semifinals along with taking out another A-League side in Wanderers and state sides from Brisbane and Perth. They very much wanted this trophy to try and get some respect, Sydney FC wanted it to finally show something for the Arnold era which was yet to bear any cup shaped fruit. The tickets sales were surprisingly good for a midweek clash between a team with hardly and fans and a side from Sydney that have fans so fickle they would probably only travel if they made a Grand Final. Some 15,000 tickets were presold with a smattering under 20,000 showing up at an AAMI Park complete with the usual array of seagulls.
The game got off to a frenetic pace after a sombre marking of the tragic plane crash in South America that had wiped out a Brazilian football side. Some five minutes in Luke Brattan (another of the City golden boys on big coin) put in a late tackle on Michael Zullo which raised the ire of the Sydney bench, substitute Matt Simon as per usual the first to be the master of gesturing and abuse. The game soon settled down in an arm wrestle with Sydney FC again slowly choking their opposition’s time on the ball like a boa constrictor, City’s flamboyance threatening to break out at any moment. City had the chances with Cahill heading wide from a set piece and then Fernando Brandan with the tatts and haircut that make him look like he should be at a Reclaim Australia rally shot over the bar from inside the penalty area.
Rhyan Grant’s run in to the box should have generated more but for all their control Sydney FC couldn’t turn anything in to chances while City were always a danger. 0-0 at half time.
In the second half Sydney FC’s Alex Brosque complete with a beard straight from ‘Rush/The Olden Days’ had his obliquity easy miss for the game squandering a half chance as a tension when through the crowd perhaps realizing this actually was a cup final. Then on 52 minutes the cometh the moment cometh the man came and who else it was going to be. Ivan Franjic, the classy right back cruelled by a heart condition in recent times, sent in a lovely cross to the head of Cahill who rose and placed the ball past Vukovic and in to the back of the net. Crowd saluted, corner flag punched, City in front.
The goal made Arnold and Sydney FC blink subbing off the ineffectual star Filip Holosko for the combative Simon but it was his strike partner Bobo who had the chance and squandered it when his headed was cleared off the line by the Dane Michael Jakobsen. Sydney FC dominated possession but couldn’t get a shot away in the box while any stray pass, any missed header was punished by City who rushed up the field. After another squandered chance from Brandan to make it 2-0 Brosque was taken out behind play with the Sydney fans who made the trip screaming for a penalty but none was forthcoming.
In the end Cahill, again, was the difference and it finished 1-0. City Group Australian Franchise FC had their first bit of silverware while Sydney FC again left AAMI Park with nothing following their 2014 A-League Grand Final humiliation. A game that had its moments but was still on a Wednesday night and lacks the bells and whistles of the Cup Final the FFA is trying to manufacture. The initial round are great, it connects the new and the old and shows how deep in to the community this sport runs. Perhaps the most entertaining moment of the night was Fornaroli’s victory speech. Never a master of the King’s English his stilted speech thanking sponsors and the like he ended it with a triumphant ‘Fuck off!’ live on national television to the bemusement of his teammates and coach.
The Cup was lifted, photos taken, the joy on the City players and fans there to see perhaps showing they will we be taken seriously as a real club with time. In a shower of tape and a half filled AAMI Park the FFA Cup was over for a third year. It had been a great journey avoiding A-League sides right until the semifinal. While there are still problems with the sharp end of the competition it can only get better and be more encompassing of the little guys.
MELBOURNE CITY 1 (Cahill 52) SYDNEY FC 0
CROWD – 18,751
ATMOSPHERE – Always very good at AAMI Park and it helps when having away fans and a cup on the line.
FACILITIES – N/A
EATS/DRINKS FACILITIES – N/A
The 2017 and Fourth FFA Cup will commenced in February next year.