For the first time ever, the final eight of the FFA Cup will feature a club from the second tier of Australia’s state competitions after Moreland Zebras punched their tickets to the quarter-finals with a 4-0 win over NPL QLD side Magpies Crusaders FC at CB Smith Reserve on Wednesday night.
Taking advantage of numerous defensive lapses throughout the night, a first-half brace from former Melbourne City youth Thomas Barforosh and second half strikes from Tremayne Sadler and Liam Canell powered the side from Melbourne’s North to the win and sent the 1,325 fans in attendance home happy.
Juventus‘progression to the quarter-finals carries with it a double-dose of history. Not only is it the first time that a second-tier state side has made it this far in the competition, but it is also the first time the Australian champions of 1985 progressed to this stage in any capacity.
The Magpies Crusaders – who defeated fellow NPL QLD side Coomera Colts in the Round of 32 – had entered Wednesday evening’s contest with the chance to continue to shine a Cup-shaped light on an otherwise dark season.
The club from the Whitsundays region sat just a single place above the NPL QLD relegation zone with just two games remaining on the season; winning only seven of their 26 league fixtures over the course of the 2019 campaign.
Astoundingly, the Magpies Crusaders had conceded 92 goals across those fixtures, compared to just their 42 scored.
Though it came with the important caveat that it was occurring in the second – rather than the top tier of Victorian football – the Zebras’ form was an almost complete inversion of their foes; Head Coach Fausto De Amicis side riding a wave of momentum.
Just days before welcoming the Magpies Crusaders to town, the Zebras had defeated second-placed NPL2 Eastern Conference side FC Bullen Lions 1-0 to ensure they stayed in the second position of the NPL2 Western Conference table.
However, despite the disparate runs of form for the two clubs, the opening stages of Wednesday’s contest were marked by its caginess; both XIs in no rush to throw caution to the wind with a rare chance at a place in the final eight of the FFA Cup on offer.
Thus, as it so often does when the action is guarded in nature, it took a moment of magic from a set-piece to break the deadlock between the two sides in the 18th minute.
Calmly collecting the ball on the edge of the area of the area after Liam Cannell’s corner was knocked clear, Zebras’ captain Jakob Williams took his time in looking up before he lofted a ball back into the area in order to allow Barforosh to break the deficit with a header that sailed to the left of goalkeeper Mitchell Wright.
Magpies Crusaders’ captain Michael Lyall looked to inspire his side to life with a long-range effort that just flew wide in the 20th minute and Lathan Dunn following his skippers lead with a shot that went wide moments later but it proved only a brief moment of resistance from the visitors.
Unfortunately for the Magpies Crusaders, their defensive soon reared their ugly head when, in the 27th-minute, a complete absence of defensive pressure enabled Shaun Timmins to swan up the touchline without a care in the world before floating a ball into the area for Barforosh.
The 21-year-old, finding acres of space between central defenders Matthew Haspels and Isaih Kennell, fired home his second headed goal of the game to double Juventus’ advantage.
Despite their problems at the back, Magpies Crusaders were able to get the ball into the back of the net just moments before the halftime whistle sounded; only for 18-year-old Kyren Walters’ header off Mitchell Herrmann free kick be denied by the flag of the linesman.
Just nine minutes into the second half, though, any hopes the Magpies Crusaders would hold for an unlikely comeback had a dagger driven through them when the Zebras’ Gai Gai stole the ball away from Raffi Krissian and threaded a ball in behind the defensive line for Barforosh to run onto.
Unselfishly, the on-a-hattrick Barforosh opted to square the ball to an on-rushing Sadler to hammer into an open goal and make it 3-0.
Things went from bad to worse for the Queenslanders two minutes later when Walters, just moments after receiving a sneaky elbow from Williams, lashed out with a late challenge on the man that had struck him right in the eye-line of the referee – who promptly sent the teen to the rooms.
A cherry was placed upon the black and white sundae with just 15 minutes remaining when Cannell worked a clever piece of combination play with Salvatore Accardo to get himself into a pocket of space and fire past Wright to put his side four to the good.
In other results on Wednesday night, Newcastle Jets – despite a wonder goal from Daniel McBreen – dispatched local NPL foes Edgeworth Eagles 5-1, Melbourne City defeated Marconi 2-1 and Adelaide United downed Olympic FC 3-2.
Magpies Crusaders FC: 21. Mitchell Wright (GK), 5. Raffi Krissian, 6. Liam Shipton (Searle 80’) 7. Kyren Walters, 9. Michael Lyall (C) (Lewong 80’), 10. Matthew Haspels, 13. Lathan Dunn, 14. Mitchell Herrmann (Coombes 90′), 17. Eduardo Castaneda, 23. Nelson Burgess, 24. Isaiah Kennell
Substitutes: 1. Jayden Tower (GK), 3. Pierce Searle, 11. Benjamin Coombes, 12. Carlos Lewong, 15. Nathan Walker
Moreland Zebras FC: 1. Fraser Chalmers, 2. Shaun Timmins, 4. Tremayne Sadler, 5. Matthew Whatley, 6. Luke Devitt, 8. Liam Cannell, 10. Thomas Barforosh (Habib 81’), 11. Jakob Williams (C), 12. Lucien Ibanda (Petricca 95′), 18. Salvatore Accardo, 23. Gai Gai (Cardamone 67’)
7. Thomas Petricca, 13. Vasili Tsoumpris, 16. Bilal Habib, 19. Stefan Cardamone, 21. Jack West-Astuti