Avondale’s hopes of a magical cup run have come crashing down after a 2-1 extra time loss to the Melbourne Knights sees them eliminated from the FFA Cup.
The Avengers had higher hopes than a sixth round exit but will be forced to watch the rest of the tournament unfold from the sidelines after they were outplayed by a spirited Knights side.
A tough first half saw plenty of hefty challenges but few scoring chances, as both teams battled to control the game. Avondale were denied a penalty despite what looked to be a clear handball by a Knights player on the goal line, but struggled to create great chances on goal.
Things opened up in the second half as the Azzurri came out firing and were rewarded with the game’s opening goal. Yusuf Ahmed smashed home a ball after the Knights failed to clear their lines properly, capitalising on the early opportunity.
The goal seemed to spark new life into Avondale, with the away side pushing on in search of a second goal. Tasuku Sekiya came within inches of doubling his side’s advantage after tearing through the Knights’ backline and unleashing a venomous strike, but his effort crashed into the crossbar and out for a goal kick.
Sekiya had another chance moments later from a free kick, but while his effort was good enough to beat the wall, it couldn’t beat the keeper who was able to claim it comfortably.
While Avondale had dominated the early phase of the second half, they soon found themselves on the back foot as a resurgent Knights side battled their way back into the contest.
Hamish Watson issued a warning with good shot from a dangerous run, before later drawing the Knights level with a headed effort from close range.
The goal swung all the momentum the home side’s way and soon they were pushing hard to take the lead. Avondale were forced to cling on to push the game to extra time, surviving a late goal-line scramble to extend the game.
But the Knights were relentless and they soon found a go-ahead goal early into extra time, with Gian Albano scoring from close range.
Knowing that their FFA Cup future was on the line the Azzurri responded with intent and desperation, but seemed to lack creativity and composure in their search for an equaliser.
Phillip Riccobene had his side’s best chance to draw level right at the death, but his curling shot was tipped over the bar and Matthew Reid’s header from the ensuing corner was wide of the target.
That also proved to be Avondale’s last chance as the referee then blew his whistle to bring the game to a close.
Mohamed Awad and Hamish Watson were crucial for the Knights, causing all sorts of problems for Avondale defenders.
Meanwhile, the Avengers will be left to rue some sloppy play in the midfield, with too many turnovers – in particularly in the second phase of the second half – heaping pressure on themselves.
The loss extends what has been a difficult run of form for the Azzurri, who are now winless in their last four games after winning 13 of their first 14 matches to start the season.
They’ll be looking to bounce back this weekend when they take on Port Melbourne at JL Murphy Reserve on Saturday night.
By Bransen Gibson