By Michael Barbaro (@mbarbaro1994)
Adelaide City have marched into the FFA Cup semi-finals following a 2-1 win over the Croydon Kings at the VALO Football Centre on Tuesday night.
It was a vastly different affair from the first time these two sides met at the start of the year, with City picking up the win thanks to Tomas Maricic’s late header.
As expected, the match had some heat in it from the beginning with City aiming to combat Croydon’s physical style.
Early on, Joseph Costa quickly played on from a free kick and found Chris Pepe on the right, but the winger’s cross was collected easily by John Hall.
However, the winger found himself with another chance after 11 minutes and this time made no mistake.
Pepe was surrounded by three opponents on the corner of the 18 yard box, and after some fancy footwork unleashed a drive which found the net courtesy of a deflection.
It marked the brilliant start to Pepe’s City career as just last weekend he grabbed his first goal for the club in a big win over MetroStars.
As the half went on, Croydon began to settle into the encounter as Luke Klimek escaped punishment in the middle of the park after a heavy tackle on Anthony Costa.
Antoni Trimboli went on a run down the left wing, but Maricic’s brilliant tackle thwarted Croydon’s dangerous looking attack.
Just before the break, Joseph Costa’s set piece found the head of Maricic but the defender’s header was inches wide as he very nearly doubled his side’s advantage on the stroke of half time.
In the second half, it was a much more open contest as the home side attempted to grab the game’s equaliser.
Anthony Costa tried his luck from range, while Massimo Falco almost scored a dream goal on his first team debut when he found space on the left.
Pat Caraccia skipped into the penalty area but was stopped by a brilliant piece of Maricic defending as he cleared Caraccia’s cross from danger.
However, with eight minutes remaining the game was turned on its head under controversial circumstances.
Nathan Munro went down after backing into Haris Vuckic and Gary Mooney pointed to the spot after Assistant Referee Nick Elagin raised his flag for a foul.
Antoni Trimboli made no mistake from six yards, but equilibrium lasted no more than four minutes.
After another foul by Croydon in City’s attacking third Joseph Costa had yet another opportunity to whip in a dangerous free-kick.
He found the head of Maricic again, and this time the big man found the back of the net to give his side a huge victory as they now go through to the competition’s final four.
City take on Croydon again at Polonia Reserve on Saturday afternoon as the sides meet for the final time this season.
Adelaide City 2 (Pepe 11’, Maricic 86’)
Croydon Kings 1 (Trimboli 82’ (P))
Lineup: 1. Ryan Veitch (GK), 3. Bradley Corbo, 45. Tomas Maricic, 22. Haris Vuckic, 5. Zak Waters, 8. Joseph Costa, 6. Dominic Matricciani, 7. Chris Pepe, 11. Nicholas Bucco (Markulic 88’), 19. James Boffa (Falco 58’), 9. Anthony Costa
Unused subs: 20. Luke Ostbye, 12. Benny Kovadio