Adelaide City edged out last year’s Grand Final winners Croydon Kings 3-1 on penalties in an elimination final in the PlayStation 4 National Premier League South Australia after the match ended 1-1 all in extra time at Polonia Reserve last Saturday night.
Steven Pepper handed the home side the lead in the first half with Lewis Farquhar providing the equaliser midway through the second half.
Croydon started out the match with their usual passing game and spreading it to the likes of Rocky Visconte and Shaun McGreevy on the wings, whilst City pressed and narrowed the spaces as quickly as possible.
It was the home side that threatened first in the 9th minute through forward Andreas Wiens, but his volley in the penalty area went well over the crossbar.
City threatened the Croydon goal minutes later through livewire Farquhar who got to the end of a long ball, but his first time effort only hit the side netting.
Visconte tried his luck with a volley of his own in the 19th minute, but like Wiens his attempt was well of the mark as well.
City threatened Croydon’s goal through corners and set pieces in the 23rd, 24th and 27th minute but all of the attempts were to no avail.
The away side were to rue those missed opportunities in the 36th minute, when Steven Pepper’s audacious shot from 25 metres out overcame a slow to react Ryan Veitch to hand Croydon the lead.
However, City came close to an equaliser four minutes later when a cross from the right wing was met by Marco Mittiga, but his header was denied by a brilliant one-handed save from Nicholas Munro.
City returned from the break the stronger of the two and pressed even harder than in the first half, pinning back Croydon to in or around its own penalty area.
The pressure would reap its reward in the 64thminute when Farquhar got to the end of a neat through ball from the midfield to make his way towards Munro to slot the ball past the goalkeeper for the deserved equaliser.
City continued to press and pin back Croydon with the home side absorbing the pressure admirably and counter attacking whenever possible without much success until the first minute of injury time, when Peter Mercurio’s saved shot caused a goal mouth scramble with the eventual follow-up narrowly missing the goal.
Wiens threatened City with a volley in the first minute of extra time, whilst City came close in the 103rd minute.
Veitch denied Wiens with a good save at the start of the second half of extra time, whilst at the other end Munro did even better to deny Fumiya Suzuki’s brilliant curving shot.
Croydon made a last ditch attempt on goal in the 119th minute, when Wiens managed to turn his defender and get a shot on goal, but was denied by Veitch.
And Veitch would deny the striker again in the shoot-out, who was first to step up to the mark.
Matthew Mullen scored for City with Visconte levelling for Croydon.
Munro denied Alexander Sunasky, however, Croydon couldn’t capitalise with Allan Welsh hitting the cross bar.
Joel Allwright put City back ahead with Dion Gazettas missing the target.
Suzuki converted to send City through to the next round where they will meet West Torrens-Birkalla.
City coach Damian Mori spoke of the quality of the league and in particular the quality of the top six given the results of the past weekend.
“I think, you know, after last night’s (Saturday’s) win I think it just shows how close the league is,” Mori said.
“I think any team in the top six is capable of beating each other and it shows in the results over the three games.
“So, obviously we are excited and we’re looking forward to next week.”
In regards to the match itself Mori said:
“Look, I thought it was two good teams playing football,” he said.
“It could’ve gone either way and fortunately today (Saturday), it went our way and in (Westfield FFA) the cup final they destroyed us and maybe it was a bit of revenge.
“But like I said: It was two good teams that wanted to play and it showed by going to penalties.”
Croydon coach Mark Brazzale admitted that losing on penalties isn’t his ideal way of exiting the finals competition.
“As expected, we are a little upset,”Brazzale said,” going down on penalties isn’t the ideal way but, you know, at the end of the day it’s 50-50 and you can’t really do much.”
“You just got to live with it. It’s a penalty shoot-out. It’s not a thing that a team needs to deserve to win on penalties but that’s the way it goes.
“That’s football and you move on!”
In regards to the match Brazzale said:
“I think in the first half we were totally in control,” he said, “we played very well last night (Saturday) as a team.”
“First half we went in 1-0 and we were probably the better team.
“In the second half, we came out starting like the first half but then City had to push to try to get a goal and they did.”
“Going into extra time I felt confident again, I thought we were looking good again, we had really good chances.
“But it wasn’t meant to be.”
However, Brazzale does believe that Croydon had a good year given his team’s successes in the Federation Cup and the Westfield FFA Cup.
“In hindsight, it was a good season,” he said,” we were knocked out in a penalty shoot-out.”
“It wasn’t that we weren’t the better team, we were; we just got knocked out of a penalty shoot-out.
“For me, it was a successful year for us and look, we move on.”
Article by Christopher Munker