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Opinion

FFA Cup: Olympic upset Joondalup on an emotional night of football

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Roar Guru
30th September, 2021
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Before we get into the match, I want to take a moment to write about ECU Joondalup player Danny Hodgson.

Hodgson has been in intensive care since he was allegedly coward punched in an unprovoked attack at Perth train station on 5 September.

There has been a huge outpouring of emotion from not only the Australian football community but the international one as well. Players from Manchester United have donated money to his recovery, while superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo have sent him personalised messages wishing him well.

Hodgson’s parents, Nicola and Peter, were given an exemption into Australia from the UK to be at their 26-year-old son’s bedside.

Danny is still unable to walk or talk but has remarkably been able to gesture in response to questions from doctors in recent days

Hodgson’s parents were the guests of honour on an emotional FFA Cup night in Dorrien Gardens. Joondalup teammate Ellis Healing wore Hodgson’s No. 7 jersey, and the whole squad warmed up in T-shirts emblazed with ‘DH7’.

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The club also announced before the game that half the gate takings would be donated to supporting the popular player through his recovery.

Even with the outpouring of emotion, ESU Joondalup were still heavy favourites to win this match.

Olympic had only arrived in Perth at lunchtime after the 3.5-hour flight from Adelaide but were in full control early as they looked to make their possession count.

Joondalup seemed shellshocked given the recent heartbreak that has engulfed the club and made several uncharacteristic errors in the first half.

Former Adelaide United youth team players Michael Cittadini and Jason Konstandopoulos, who were threats all night, missed golden opportunities to open the scoring.

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Once Joondalup woke up from their sluggish start they had some solid sights at goal. An Ellis Healing free kick whizzed narrowly by, and Shane Cassidy, Declan Hughes and Chris Harold all spurned half-chances.

Joondalup were firmly back in the game now, but the second half was a war of attrition as both teams slugged it out in the middle of the park.

The emotion of the night seemed to have sucked the air out of the Joondalup players, and as the game approached the last 20 minutes, Adelaide Olympic sprung into life, dominating the match and scoring three quickfire goals.

Olympic had a stonewall penalty turned down which was quickly followed by Konstandopoulos missing a chance he should’ve taken.

The breakthrough came in the 70th minute when Christos Pounendis scored an acrobatic volley after a scuffed clearance from a corner.

If the first goal was sublime, the second goal needed to be seen to be believed. It is one of the best goals scored in any professional Australian football match this season.

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Fausto Erba is a 36-year-old Italian import who finished runner-up in the SA NPL top scorer category. In the 78th minute he barely kept in a pass on the left-hand side byline just inside the 18-yard box. With no teammates for support, Erba had his defender isolated one on one and went straight to work.

He feinted to go on his right side twice before dragging the ball back with his left foot, which had him standing on the byline. He then beautifully dinked the ball past the goalkeeper with his right foot in a bit of magic that left the home crowd speechless and Joondalup players trying to work out what they had just seen. The goal generated a lot of buzz of social media.

A third goal came when the ever-impressive Michael Cittadini was bought down by the Joondalup goalkeeper. Olympic Greek import Giannis Simosis dispatched the resulting penalty.

While ESU Joondalup’s maiden FFA cup journey ended in defeat, the club has won many admirers and support for the off-field battle their star striker Danny Hodgson is going through.

My thoughts and prayers are with Hodgson and his family and friends for a speedy recovery.

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