The wonder of super-Tuesday in the FFA Cup

Evan Morgan Grahame Columnist

By Evan Morgan Grahame, Evan Morgan Grahame is a Roar Expert

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    It’s a glimpse isn’t it? As the frigid weeks of the off-season crawl by, the FFA Cup slashes through the deathly absence and in doing so lets in a warm shaft of light.

    This is what the A-League could be like, with more teams in it, more colour in it, more intrigue and unlikely upset, and if not for the dreaded duct tape, a bit more ethnicity in it.

    The teams and the players that carry their colours out aren’t as familiar. The grounds are smaller, but often fuller. There is a sense here of a carpet, slightly drab and thick with must, being cut away and pulled up to reveal a lovely set of floorboards, and you wonder why they were carpeted over in the first place. 

    An evening brimming with six cup matches, all of them, in one way or another, available to watch online, or indeed in person as is best advised.

    If the Congress Review Working Group report released today was a 100 pages all dipped in and infused with the depressing stench of further turmoil ahead, Tuesday night was the perfect olfactory counter and riposte, delicious in every way, varied in character and bouquet, a wonderful, rich scent that sent hurried electric messages, eager lads laughing and running, straight to the salivary glands.

    How to sample them all? Well, one at a time.

    Brisbane Roar vs Melbourne City
    Brisbane began brightly against Melbourne City, with new recruit Stefan Mauk making an immediate impression with energy, hunger and no small amount of zip. City, as was perfectly expressed by their slightly sluggish start, are in need of a jolt to the system.

    Entirely overshadowed this week by their city rivals, there’s a small, neutral hope that they will offer a worthy retort to the Honda signing, with a marquee of their own, to really give some fizz to the rivalry, enough perhaps to carbonate the multiple derbies to come this season. 

    Of course, in Bruno Fornaroli, they still have one of the league’s preeminent attackers, and one shouldn’t underestimate the impact a developing and burgeoning Riley McGree might have this season. It was Fornaroli’s always-impressive ability to shield the ball from hulking centre backs that wormed City back into things early, as the Uruguayan set up Nathaniel Atkinson to slap a shot toward goal on the run.

    Later in the half, Luke Brattan went down after a fairly routine-looking skirmish in midfield, but stayed down in a wholly unusual way, totally motionless. He would not be moved for a great deal of time, as what seemed to be a spinal injury meant the game was halted entirely and an ambulance called.

    It was scary stuff, really. It took well over half an hour for Brattan to be lifted off the turf, stabilised and on a stretcher, his parents with him in the ambulance; thoughts were of only optimistic things, and all those watching, in person and on television, were thinking of him as he left.

    The injury put a mute on the contest, which dribbed and drabbed out, 0-0, into extra time. As the match trudged toward penalties in a daze, Fornaroli stunned everyone with a wondergoal, snatched out of the malaise, as he controlled a pass on the run, deliberately flicked the ball up off his toe, then smashed the ball in on the volley.

    Super stuff, and City won 1-0.

    Bruno Fornaroli

    Bruno Fornaroli after his wonder strike. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

    Gold Coast Knights vs Newcastle Jets
    When I switched over to Newcastle Jets versus Gold Coast Knights, the Jets were a goal up, with the clock only barely scratching 20 minutes gone. Well, these things can happen when team separated by an entire, disconnected division meet in the Cup, but these mismatches always have a tinge of magic to them, that is until leads turn into routs. 

    How lovely to see a team playing in a strip so pleasingly designed as the Knights’ was. A club founded by Croatian-Australians in 1978, they play in those wonderful Croatian checks, red and white, with blue socks, a design still glowing warmly in the memory after Croatia’s World Cup run to the final. Just as Luca Modric and co were underdogs there, so the Knights were too here, but a game of it they were intent on making. 

    Every trip into the Newcastle half was met with shrieks and whoops, every half-chance, or unwise shot met with roars and applause.

    Imagine if, in the build up to the match, the body that the competition is named after had made deliberate and concerted efforts to try and harness the energy that was so evidently emanating from the Croatian-Australian community – or indeed any football-loving Australian keen to dip their toe into the many glassy rock pools of a multi-cultural nation – during the World Cup and advertise this game appealing to that energy, before it dies down and returns to the shadows, unaddressed and covered up.

    The Knights have undergone a number of face-lifts since their creation, and having been asked to remove ‘Croatia’ from their club name by the football federation in the 90s, they’ve had to survive more than one harsh cleansing. But there’s no mistaking the origin of those checks, and how resplendent they were in them, even standing next to the Jets’ almost all-gold strip. 

    Back to the game, though; the Petratos brothers Dimi and Kosta were running riot on each flank, and Steven Ugarkovic – one of the most underrated players in the A-League – was being his neat and progressive self in midfield. The Knights were holding their defensive structure, with two distinct banks, keeping a clear line, resisting the urge to chase men or ball and so disrupt rigidity of their stance. They were breaking with speed, if not precision. 

    Steven Ugarkovic of the Jets

    Steven Ugarkovic of the Jets. (AAP Image/Darren Pateman)

    Dimi Petratos had a sighter, a free kick from 30 metres out, and then 15 minutes later a second from the same spot. The first was curled over, the second smashed true and straight and into Knights keeper Josh Langdon’s palms.

    That was as close as the Jets got to doubling their lead before the break, so it was 1-0 – it had been Nikolai Topor-Stanley that had scored the Jets’ first, a fairly soft goal too – which was a fine state of affairs, all things considered, for the Knights.

    The second half, where the legs grow heavy and ache with fatigue, and the lungs shrink and begin wheezing, is so often where the fatal blow is inflicted on the lower-level team. The Jets would end up narrow 1-0 winners.

    Bentleigh Greens vs Wellington Phoenix
    Off to the next game we went, for the second half between the Nix and Bentleigh Greens. Marco Jankovic had scored for Bentleigh, a standing header from five yards out after a corner was missed by almost all of the Wellington defence.

    It was not a moment of distinction for Mark Rudan’s team, and they were trailing all the way into the second half, despite Bentleigh Greens’ James Kelly being sent off. Kelly’s had been a case of one orange card, and then a second foul that barely justified a booking – overall, his misdeeds probably deserved the red when tallied up, not that that’s how this works at all.

    Wellington were looking slow, heaving a little as they moved over the turf. Nathan Burns and Roy Krishna were being too easily dispossessed, and the Greens were driving through the Wellington midfield with startling ease. Still, the Nix were a man up, and only a goal down, so there was no reason, at the start of the second half, to think they wouldn’t perk up. 

    Roy Krishna

    Roy Krishna of the Phoenix in action. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

    But Bentleigh didn’t look like a team fretfully holding on to a narrow lead. They were defending with a stout confidence air, already knowing that whatever Wellington foray they were resisting would end in limpness and impotence, and were striding out of defence having apparently planned their route before regaining the ball. They were pressing across the full length of the pitch, and were in constant communication, shoring up weak spots with harping and hustle. It was impressive.

    Sapreet Singh, a very nice young player, shot with venom from distance, but the shot was caught and thrown out with a pleasing swiftness by Greens keeper Ryan Scott. Wellington attacks washed up onto the Bentleigh shore, and with the same resting ease with which a cliff face repels wave after crashing wave, Bentleigh repelled the Nix. It felt like it might take many millennia of football for the Nix to cut through. Greens would take the Kiwi scalp, winning 1-0, and Cup magic was sprinkled liberally around.

    Hellenic Athletic vs Western Sydney Wanderers
    Hellenic Athletic, in the crisp blue and white stripes of the Greek flag, were taking on Western Sydney, and were a team containing names like Barry, Hordor and Maskey. They have a 48 year-old striker with a head full of dreadlocks, and a number of bush-ranger beards in their team – how absolutely ripping! What fun!

    It was like a football-themed episode of Game of Thrones, except one can hardly say “Winter is Coming” with any conviction in the north of the Northern Territory, when a mid-winter’s day will drop down to chilly 33 degrees Celsius.  

    Meanwhile, the Wanderers were quickly up 2-0 within half an hour, beneficiaries of an own goal and penalty. They began to cruise, and Roly Bonevacia even tried an almost-insulting attempt from a free kick closer to the halfway line than the goal. Athletic were pressing and, indeed, fouling like a team unaware of exactly how hard they should play in the first half against a superior team.

    Pacing oneself, it appeared, was not part of the game-plan, and it was not helping their cause. We saw only the briefest glints of exactly how Bruce Kamau, Oriel Riera, Bonevacia, and Nick Fitzgerald might look, might gel, might click and whirr and score goals together. It’s certainly a front unit with potential, if only the unrealised variety.

    Bruce Kamau Adelaide United Reds A-League Grand Final Football 2016

    Bruce Kamau during his time with Adelaide. (AAP Image/David Mariuz)

    Athletic would pull a goal back through Daniel Smith. Oh? A blip, perhaps. Then in the second half, young Maskey – a lad standing barely 5 foot-and-a-half, curled a free kick into the corner, a cross taken from out on the wing that was horribly misjudged by Wanderers keeper Danijel Nizic. Nizic got lost under the flight of the ball, and it dropped under the crossbar. 2-2, and there was no cruising now. 

    The Wanderers would wrest back the lead, normal business resumed. But wait! A perfect through ball, curled from the left over to the right! Maskey dashing onto it, with Nizic charging out with equal intent! A perfect chip, and 3-3! What a thriller this was turning out to be.

    Robbie Kilmartin had a goal-bound header cleared off the line, with Nizic missing the ball entirely and clearing out the Hellenic striker like a big meat torpedo. Nizic’s ability to misjudge a 50-50 contest was on full display this evening. Kilmartin walked off gingerly; would be see Helio Carvahlo, the wondefully-named 48-year-old striker? With 83 minutes gone, no, we wouldn’t, as Kilmartin trotted back on. 

    Riera had a golden header saved point blank, stopped by the Hellenic goalkeeper’s prodigious stomach. It’s worth reminding everyone that Hellenic train once a week, and are a team of amateurs. 

    Then, in the 92nd minute, the Wanderers capitalised on a team unable to stay lit, extinguished just before the end, as Hellenic – unable to chase back one last time before the whistle – were caught horribly short at the back. At least three Wanderers lined up to tap home after a dash down the left, and Bonevacia obliged. 4-3, a gut-punch for the locals and their team but a wonderful game. 

    Devonport Strikers vs Northcote City
    Northcote City were being drubbed by Tasmania’s Devonport Strikers, 3-1, with the third goal a wonderful effort by Joel Stone, leaping like Baryshnikov to control a clipped through ball with one daintily extended toe, before slotting unerringly past the onrushing goal keeper.

    Of the the little I saw of this game, that part was gorgeous.

    Perth Glory vs Melbourne Victory
    Finally, the Victory – without Honda – were leading Perth Glory. Terry Antonis had just been felled by a terrible Shane Lowry tackle, one that yanked Kevin Muscat from his seat, appealing for a red card – he’d know a thing or two about those. Victory were narrowly in control of a taught scuffle at the break.

    Melbourne started Kenny Athiu, probably the first choice striker at the club at the moment, with Besart Berisha in Japan now. Athiu has a magnetic quality to him, all limb and leg on the pitch, with a fluidity to his movement; he takes not jarring steps, but soft strides, his broad shoulder slipping between defenders much more easily than they should.

    He and Josh Hope might make those apparent holes in the squad disappear, although when Athiu missed a sitter from a few yards out, it urged to the contrary.

    Diego Castro of the Perth Glory

    Perth Glory’s Diego Castro (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

    Perth were playing some tight stuff, playing out from the back; one sequence saw about half a dozen passing triangles arranged, all passes of 15 feet or less, smacked rat-a-tat from teammate to teammate under heavy pressure, eventually cutting through to find a clear path out into the Melbourne half. It was very neat indeed. But not neat enough, with Victory 1-0 winners when the whistle blew.

    Well, a flurry of matches, all of them captivating, all of them sweet symphonies of competitive football filling the resounding silence of the pre-season. The FFA Cup, in allowing for these encounters, implicitly pushes the case for an expanded league, a freer set of teams and team colours, a second division; it urges for football with football.

    We should all appreciate the value in that. 

    Evan Morgan Grahame
    Evan Morgan Grahame

    Evan Morgan Grahame is a Melbourne-based journalist. Gleaning what he could from his brief career as a painter, the canvas of the football pitch is now his subject of contemplation, with the beautiful game sketching new, intriguing compositions every week. He has been one of The Roar's Expert columnists since 2016. Follow him on Twitter @Evan_M_G.

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    The Crowd Says (33)

    • Roar Rookie

      August 8th 2018 @ 7:43am
      Waz said | August 8th 2018 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      Can’t believe the author didn’t mention 6,121 fans travelled an hour north of Brisbane (almost 2 hours if you live in the south) on a cold Tuesday night, to a stadium without a rail station near it, for a game that was always destined to finish at 9.30, or well after 10PM with extra time, but ended up finishing at 11PM with fans getting home after midnight after packing out a small suburban stadium.

      sigh ….. will no one think of the fans?

      • August 8th 2018 @ 8:49am
        Neil said | August 8th 2018 @ 8:49am | ! Report

        Even though the result was disappointing, I thought Roar have started the season a lot better than last. Drove and hour and half and surprised to see the turn out, people are starving for football, a good sign for the season ahead.

      • August 8th 2018 @ 9:18am
        Nemesis said | August 8th 2018 @ 9:18am | ! Report

        Are you being serious, or tongue-in-cheek?

        The match kicked off at 7:30 p.m. so, if you say it takes 2 hours to travel there by car, how would adults who are employed get there in time if the match kicked off earlier?

        Would you have preferred a 6:30 p.m. kick off? Earlier?

        • Roar Rookie

          August 8th 2018 @ 12:13pm
          Waz said | August 8th 2018 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

          I’m not sure what you read in to my post sometimes Nemesis?

          I was just asking for some acknowledgement of an excellent FFA Cup crowd.

          (The “won’t someone think of the fans” comment was meant as a little dig at the author, not the ko time).

          • August 8th 2018 @ 12:54pm
            Lionheart said | August 8th 2018 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

            Were they regular fans Waz? I noticed in the last few minutes when Fox ran out of options and finally switched to Redcliffe, the lack of a Den chant and some fans giving the ‘let’s go’ basketball chant. Maybe we’re picking up new fans, I thought.

      • August 8th 2018 @ 9:32am
        Ian said | August 8th 2018 @ 9:32am | ! Report

        Wasn’t a home game for a Sydney or Melbourne A-League team.

        Good turnout. Hope Bratts makes a full recovery.

      • August 8th 2018 @ 9:36am
        Lionheart said | August 8th 2018 @ 9:36am | ! Report

        This is that Melbourne based writer Waz. He doesn’t even know where Redcliffe is, and probably thinks Brats parents flew up from Melbourne. Surely Roar writers can do better than this.

        • August 8th 2018 @ 3:52pm
          Chopper said | August 8th 2018 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

          Bratt’s parents live in Brisbane, his father Gary played for Rochedale Rovers as did Luke through his junior years.

    • August 8th 2018 @ 8:58am
      Kangas said | August 8th 2018 @ 8:58am | ! Report

      Looked like a good venue at the Redcliffe dolphins ground

      Last night having clubs like devenport strikers Hellenic bentleigh Marconi Heidelberg Wollongong Rockdale etc involved is fantastic.
      I really enjoy these games more then 80 per cent of A league matches .

      This is why I’m against franchised fc like southern coming in ,…. we have so many great clubs around Australia already …..let’s work on the financial model to get these clubs in A league

      • August 8th 2018 @ 9:51am
        Lionheart said | August 8th 2018 @ 9:51am | ! Report

        Kangas, Dolphins redevelopment was funded by the Federal government and local council a few years ago with work ongoing over a few years. I believe the cost was around $12mil and capacity is about 14K but that includes standing (about 10K seated I think). The blueprint would suit a number of A League clubs, I would think. The Dolphins RL club has been around forever and is a popular spot on the Redcliffe Peninsula. Despite what Waz says above, there is a train nearby (Kippa Ring station), but it’s a side track off the main line north out of Brisbane so it’s a long trip for some.

    • Roar Rookie

      August 8th 2018 @ 9:05am
      Stevo said | August 8th 2018 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      Went down to the Kingston Heath Soccer Complex to see Bentleigh Greens put one over a lack lustre and uninspiring Nux. Rudan has a heck of a lot of work to do to turn that outfit into a vaguely competitive A-league team. They lacked magic in the midfield and often looked very pedestrian trying to break down the Bentleigh wall. A long season ahead me thinks. And that Bruno goal was magic. The guy still has it in his locker 🙂

    • August 8th 2018 @ 9:40am
      Cool and Cold said | August 8th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      Again, like many times last season, Caletti failed to mark. So, Fornaroli could shoot.

    • August 8th 2018 @ 9:42am
      Lionheart said | August 8th 2018 @ 9:42am | ! Report

      Don’t know if it worked for others, but Fox streaming wasn’t, in my house. I’m a subscriber and use Foxtel Go regularly but they only way I could access their streaming last night was to pay the extra $ for a different service. Settled for Stuart’s live call here, but even he lost his streaming for much of the game.

    • August 8th 2018 @ 10:06am
      TK said | August 8th 2018 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      Being on the northside of Brisbane it was a convenient 15 minute drive for me from Brighton to Redcliffe for the Roar v City match up and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The venue was perfect for this sort of match.
      The game was a real arm wrestle and with the delay in getting Luke Brattan safely off the ground it crept on longer than expected as the time time ticked up and the temperature went down. Warren Joyce showed his toughness by wearing the shorts all night (it’s only winter in Brisbane afterall).

      I made the call that extra time was inevitable mid way through the second half and decided to visit the canteen for a four and twenty to keep the internal furnace stoked with fuel to keep me warm. The canteen lady called the crowd at 10K but was over-ruled later by the ground announcer at 6000. I’m not sure how many they normally get for the RL at the ground, but it was pretty full in the stands with 6000, so a 10K crowd would I think be stretching the facilities and perhaps be less comfortable than last night was.

      Towards the end of the game it looked like it was going to penalties – only for a cracker goal from the villain of the night Fornaroli (getting no sympathy from the crowd for what appeared to be his frequent trouble staying on his feet with the extra pounds put on over the off season) who hit the back of the net with a great bit of skill just as the clock marked 15.00 of the second half of extra time.

      Overall I thought City were just a bit bigger, faster and better than Brisbane, but the game was a real battle in midfield most of the night and Brisbane were certainly in the game the whole time – it really could have gone either way. Eric Bautheac was everywhere for Brisbane and ran himself into the ground and showed great individual skills and was unlucky not to score from a great turn and shot from the edge of the box in the second half. He needs some better partnerships with the players around him and I thought new signing Mikkelsen looked good, at one point speeding onto a ball and putting a first time cross (so uncharacteristic of Brisbane’s normal play) in behind the city defence, but the Slippery Fish was unable to control the chance – but it was a great piece of attacking work that beat City all ends up when they had looked largely untroubled in defence most of the night.

      Bowles did well at the back, though can’t help himself in getting involved in the niggle and earned an elbow from Fornaroli just before half time for his trouble – right in front of the linesman who saw nothing. O’Toole struggled a bit at times, but to be fair needed better support in those situations – he made a couple of good runs forward and put in a dangerous cross in the first half. Mauk also looked good – so there are some promising signs for Brisbane. They did however often display their usual slowness in transitioning from midfield into attack and often the roar 2 attackers were simply overwhelmed by 4 city defenders who were big and fast and the roar strikers were alone with a noticeable gap between them and any supporting midfielders coming through.

      City looked pretty solid all night, but equally didn’t really trouble Jamie Young, who also had a solid performance in what he was asked to do by Melbourne. I’m not sure who was playing in No.8 on the right for City, but he had some toe about him and really troubled the defence on that flank.

      Overall, a good night out and the FFA Cup is great bringing these games to these local grounds and it was encouraging to see so many people turn up for it.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 8th 2018 @ 12:25pm
        Waz said | August 8th 2018 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

        Being from Brighton you’ll know Peninsular Power FC presumably? How good was it to see some of their guys their last night fund raising for their club and selling their teams shirts – good cooperation between coDrs and clubs on show 👍

        And yeah, I was talking to the security guy after the crowd announcement last night and he swore the crowd had to be over 9k. The ground to me looked very full so maybe?

        • August 8th 2018 @ 6:59pm
          TK said | August 8th 2018 @ 6:59pm | ! Report

          Waz, yes, though I moved here after my playing and coaching days finished. It was good to see the leveraging of the local club with the A league – be good if there were more chances to do that. Ripped I didn’t win the raffle or have a Buderim Ginger prize under my seat. Shame Corey Brown isn’t still with us – the new ginger sponsorship would have had a ready made ambassador.

      • August 8th 2018 @ 1:02pm
        Lionheart said | August 8th 2018 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

        Great summary TK, thanks. I was surprised to see McKay and Henrique start. Maybe they understand Aloisi’s game plan better than others.

        • August 8th 2018 @ 10:38pm
          TK said | August 8th 2018 @ 10:38pm | ! Report

          Me too Lionheart – the Fish struggled against the giants in the city backline (who wouldn’t). Matty did Matty stuff. I think there will be some stiff competition for places in the starting midfield for October.

      • August 9th 2018 @ 1:50pm
        jbinnie said | August 9th 2018 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

        TK- I know it is early days ,and due to the game scheduling on TV not possible to view the whole game but it is at times like this a quick look at the match stats can give a regular football fan an insight as to the quality of the overall play.
        In this “sudden death” play off for a place in the next round,this was one of the few “HAL games on showg one would have thoughtit an ideal situation to entertain a football hungry public if they turned up for the game. Over 6000 did turn up by far the best crowd of the night and what did they get for their “fortitude”?. —–
        120 minutes of football in which the stats tell us they, the crowd,witnessed 5 shots at goal,one of which was in the 120th minute (the only goal), and 9 corner kicks for the whole match.
        Surely this is a sad reflection to those 6000 fans as to how our teams regard a “cup tie” and it is this attitude that is going to have to be nullified before our game at HAL level can be improved. Cheers jb.

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